Kentucky Wildcats 2017 Season In Review
Under Coach Mark Stoops Kentucky finished 7-6 for a second straight season though this year didn’t feel quite as good as 2016. In addition the Cats lost in their bowl game for a second consecutive year. It was quite the eventful campaign so let’s take a look at the good, bad and the controversial from the Kentucky Wildcats 2017 Season In Review and hand out some awards.
Best Performance On Offense
Offensive MVP- Benny Snell Jr.– If you gave this award at the halfway point of the season Snell would not have been the choice. However during the last five games of 2017 Snell went on a roll not seen in Lexington maybe ever.
The sophomore rushed for 777 yards over the final five games and 12 touchdowns. He finished 2017 with 1,333 yards and a school record 19 scores. The best thing for Stoops and company is he will be the centerpiece for the offense in 2018. Snell needs 1,411 yards to break Sonny Collins‘ record of 3,835.
Runners-up Austin Macginnis and Stephen Johnson– Johnson was the MVP for the Cats in the first half of the season, but a shoulder injury limited him down the stretch. With a month to heal the senior had one of his best games in the Music City Bowl. His 257 yards through the air and two rushing scores nearly completed a comeback victory.
Macginnis leaves Lexington with the Kentucky record for field goals made with 72 and is the leading scorer in school history at 362 points. Both Johnson and Macginnis are seniors and finding replacements for both will be a top priority for the coaching staff.
Best Performance On Defense
Defensive MVP- Josh Allen- The junior linebacker had a breakout season in 2017 and was named second team All-SEC. As part of the “Blitz Brothers” Allen finished the season with 65 tackles, nine and a half for loss and seven sacks. For most of 2017 he led the SEC in sacks before finishing sixth.
Allen gave the Big Blue Nation a belated Christmas present when he announced he would return for his senior year.
— Joshua Allen (@Blitzbro_josh) January 8, 2018
Mock drafts had Allen going somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. A strong final year gives him a really good chance to launch him into the first round.
Runner-up Mike Edwards– The junior safety led the Wildcats with seven point five tackles per game, ninth in the SEC. In addition he had a team high four interceptions and six pass breakups.
It seemed to be a given Edwards was going to leave school and declare for the NFL Draft. However he surprised nearly everyone by announcing he was coming back to school.
1 more! pic.twitter.com/i55gnHJzMp
— Mike Edwards (@M__Edwards7) January 9, 2018
Best Win- At South Carolina– Back in the season’s third week Kentucky went down to Columbia and and knocked off the Gamecocks 23-13. Behind Snell’s 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns the Wildcats beat Carolina for a fourth straight year. USC went on to finish the season 9-4 and beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl 26-19.
The victory marked the first time since Bear Bryant was Kentucky’s coach they defeated an SEC team other than Vanderbilt four straight years. From 1948-1951 the Wildcats defeated Florida four straight games.
Runner-up- Tennessee- Most seasons a win over the worst Volunteers squad in the recent memory wouldn’t be that memorable. However when you’ve only defeated your border rival three times in 32 years you will take any win. Even so the Kentucky had to stop Tennessee on the three yard line to preserve the victory.
Worst Loss- Florida- Everything seemed in alignment for Kentucky to beat the Gators for the first time since 1986. Somehow the Wildcats managed to blow a prime opportunity. Twice during the game the Cats only had 10 defenders on the field, leading to two scores.
Even with the inexcusable defensive lapses Kentucky still had a chance to win. A bad holding call on Nick Haynes forced Macginnins to try a 58 yard field goal which fell just short. The streak moved to 31 with a 28-27 loss.
Runner-up- Ole Miss- The Kentucky defense made Jordan Ta’amu look like Tom Brady in a 37-34 loss. Ta’amu threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns and hit D.K. Metcalf on an incredible seven yard score to win the game. The game was another in a series of frustrating losses by the Wildcat football team in 2017.
In A Class By Itself
The Wildcats fifth trip to Nashville was certainly a memorable one. The 24-23 loss in the Music City Bowl was not without controversy. Early in the second quarter Snell was ejected by official Chris Coyte for making contact. In actuality what happened is the ref offered to help him up and Snell said no.
Music City Bowl referee Chris Coyte on Benny Snell ejection: "The player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That’s a foul."
Ummmm….he did what??? pic.twitter.com/mZjGtZptD3
— Matthew S. Howard (@FFHoward) December 30, 2017
Behind Johnson the Cats mounted a remarkable comeback only to fall short when a two-point attempt failed. One would believe had Snell been in the game he would have found a way to make the conversion. On a radio appearance Stoops again voiced his displeasure about the Snell ejection.
Mark Stoops says Benny Snell’s ejection was the “worst call (he’d) ever seen,” and that the referee “obviously lied” when defending the call after the game.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) January 5, 2018
For a school with a history of heartbreaking losses, the one to Northwestern ranks right near the top.
Thank you for checking out the Kentucky Wildcats 2017 Season In Review here at Last Word On College Football. Coming next week is a look at the unique quarterback situation the team finds itself in going into 2018.