Welcome back to our next round in the quest to determine the best victory in school history. Last time out we did the left side of the bracket, so naturally this time it is the right. Once again there are some really good games so let’s get to Kentucky’s Greatest Football Win Sweet 16.
Kentucky’s Greatest Football Win Sweet 16
As always let’s begin by taking a look at the overall bracket. A huge thanks to 2 Cool For Air On Twitter for the bracket. (Photos courtesy Getty Images).
Jerry Claiborne Bracket
(1)- UK versus Alabama 1997 against (4)- UK versus East Carolina 2009
How they got here: Alabama defeated Auburn 2009 while East Carolina defeated the 1964 Ole Miss victory.
Kentucky 40- Alabama 34 (Overtime)
About the game- The Crimson Tide squad of 1997 in no way resembled what Nick Saban has built now. However, they came into this contest at Commonwealth Stadium ranked 20th. A back and forth contest saw the Cats go up 34-31 late when Anwar Stewart returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a score.
Why this game is important- It marked the first time in 75 years the Wildcats beat the Crimson Tide on the gridiron. In addition, many say it is the best game ever in Lexington.
Kentucky 25- East Carolina 19
Rich Brooks’ club trailed 16-3 at the half of the 2009 Liberty Bowl. However, as they did many times under Brooks the Cats rallied for a victory. David Jones took the second half kick off 99 for a score cutting the lead to seven. A pass from Mike Hartline to Kyrus Langster tied it at 16.
After an exchange of field goals tied the game at 19, the Kentucky defense took over. With three minutes remaining Myron Pryor forced a fumble, Ventrell Jenkins scooped it up and ran 66 yards for the score and win.
Why this game in important- The win gave the Wildcats a third straight bowl win for the only time in school history.
Our next match up is a battle of great Kentucky victories in the “Battle for the Governor’s Cup.”
(2)- Kentucky versus Louisville 2016 against (3)- Kentucky versus Louisville 1998
How they got here: the 2016 Louisville game defeated the 1995 South Carolina win while the 1998 victory beat the 2010 South Carolina game.
Kentucky 41- Louisville 38
About the game- Mark Stoops’ Wildcats went into the final game of the 2016 season as a four touchdown underdog to the Cardinals. However the Kentucky defense forced eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson into four turnovers.
Quarterback Stephen Johnson had the best game of his Wildcat career throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. When Austin MacGinnis hit a 48 yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining it gave the Cats the win in a huge upset.
Why this game is important– Kentucky broke a five game losing streak to the Cardinals in what is the second best game in series history.
Kentucky 56- Louisville 28
About the game– Under a blazing near 100 degree temperature the Kentucky offense was nearly as hot. In the first game in Papa John’s Stadium Tim Couch and the Air Raid attack lit up Louisville for a school record 801 yards. Couch finished with 478 yards through the air and seven touchdowns.
Why this game is important- In addition to jump starting Couch’s Heisman campaign where he finished fourth he compiled a near perfect 240 quarterback rating.
We are now halfway through Kentucky’s Greatest Football Win Sweet 16. The final two games feature the overall number one seed as part of the Mark Stoops Bracket.
Mark Stoops Bracket
(1) Kentucky versus LSU 2007 versus (4)- Kentucky versus Florida State 2007.
How they got here: LSU defeated the 1984 Tennessee game while Florida State beat the 1984 Wisconsin contest.
Kentucky 43- LSU 37 (Three overtimes)
About the game- Trailing 27-14 late in the third quarter to the number one Tigers Andre Woodson rallied the Cats to send the game into overtime tied at 27.
Both squads scored touchdowns in the first overtime and field goals in the second. In the third overtime Woodson found Stevie Johnson for a touchdown putting the Cats up 43-37. They missed the try for two however it wouldn’t matter. On a fourth and two linebacker Braxton Kelley stopped Charles Scott short and the celebration was on.
Why this game is important- The victory marked the first win by Kentucky over a number one ranked team since 1964. As a result many consider it the best win in Wildcat history. Furthermore it comes into this tournament as the overall number one seed.
Kentucky 35- Florida State 28- 2007 Music City Bowl
About the game- The Cats finished a second straight season with a bid in the Music City Bowl. For a second straight year they faced an ACC squad. However Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles were without 34 players due to injury or suspension.
After Andre Woodson’s fourth touchdown pass of the day made it 35-21, FSU cut it to seven on a pass from Drew Weatherford to Greg Carr. Kentucky appeared to have the game won when Micah Johnson intercepted a pass. However he fumbled on the return giving the ball right back. Luckily for Cat fans a last second pass fell incomplete.
Woodson finished with 358 yards and four touchdowns on the way to being named the game’s MVP. In addition his 40 touchdowns broke Tim Couch’s single season record of 37.
Why this game is important– It marked the first consecutive bowl wins for the Cats since the 1950’s.
Our final match up of Kentucky’s greatest win sweet 16 features two games from the Cats’ best season in 41 years.
(6)- Kentucky versus Mississippi State 2018 versus (2)- Kentucky versus Penn State 2019
How they got here: the Mississippi State win narrowly edged the 2017 Tennessee victory. The Penn State win beat out the 2006 triumph over Georgia.
Kentucky 28- Mississippi State 7
About the game– Of all the things Benny Snell accomplished at Kentucky this game ranks near the top. Against a defense line which had three players taken in the NFL Draft Snell lit them up for 165 yards and four touchdowns. In process he broke Randall Cobb‘s school touchdown record of 37.
However as impressive as Snell was the Kentucky defense was up to the task. Behind first round pick Josh Allen the Wildcats held the Bulldogs to only 51 yards rushing or 251 below their season average.
Why this game is important- The victory marked the first time since 1977 Kentucky won consecutive game against ranked opponents.
Kentucky 27- Penn State 24- 2019 Citrus Bowl
About the game- Playing in their first New Year’s Bowl in 20 years and behind huge games from Benny Snell and Lynn Bowden the Cats jumped out to a 27-7 lead. However they had to fight out a huge Nittany Lion comeback to preserve the win.
In setting the all-time record for yards with 3,873 Snell ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to returning a punt for a touchdown Bowden had five catches for 84 yards. Josh Allen, playing his last game for Kentucky had three sacks and blocked a field goal.
Why this game is important- Not only was it the first New Year’s Bowl win since 1952 it marked only the third time in school history the Cats won 10 games in a season. The other two being 1950 and 1977.
Now that we’ve gone through all the game it is time to decide who wins. Once again we are going with all the top seeds to make it to the Elite Eight.
1997 Alabama over 2009 East Carolina
2016 Louisville over 1998 Louisville
2007 LSU over 2007 Florida State
2019 Penn State over 2018 Mississippi State
What are your picks? Leave a comment below or respond to me on Twitter.. Thanks for checking out Kentucky’s Greatest Football Win Sweet 16 here at Last Word On College Football.