Recognizing The Best From The Past Season
The 2019 Kentucky football campaign was truly a tale of two seasons. During the first half of the year, the Wildcats struggled. However, the latter half saw some incredible things as the Cats finished 8-5. Couple that with the 10-3 mark the year before and you have the best two-year record in 40 years. Much like Hollywood recognized their best the other night with the Golden Globe Awards we are doing the same. In both individuals and the team let’s present our 2019 Kentucky Football Awards.
An Unbelievable Year
Offensive MVP- Lynn Bowden- Following the season’s first five games Kentucky sat at 2-3. Starting quarterback Terry Wilson was lost for the season due to a torn patellar tendon. Backup Sawyer Smith was banged up as well. With seemingly no other options head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator, Eddie Gran turned to Bowden to lead the offense.
What happened next is why he won this award. In eight games at quarterback, the former high school signal-caller set not only school but SEC records as well. Bowden finished the year as the league’s leading rusher with 1,468 yards. In addition, he placed second with 13 touchdowns. Even though he didn’t catch a pass over the last eight games he still led Kentucky in receptions with 30.
However, Bowden, who had already declared for the NFL Draft, saved his best for last. Against rival Louisville Bowden ran for 284 yards, a record for an SEC quarterback, to go along with four touchdowns. In the Cats 37-30 comeback win in the Belk Bowl the junior ran for 233 yards and two scores. He also hit Josh Ali with the game-winning pass with 15 seconds remaining.
Bowden’s 2019 performance goes down as one of the all-time best in school and league history. As a result, he won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
The Big Blue Wall
Offensive MVP Runner-up- Kentucky’s Offensive Line- During the 2019 season the Wildcats ran for 3,624 yards, fifth-best in football. In addition, the Cats had four players run for over 500 yards. The reason is the big guys upfront. A year ago Benny Snell ran for 1,449 yards and set the career rushing mark at the school.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 8, 2020
How good was the unit? Pro Football Focus ranked the Kentucky offensive line fifth-best in college football.
PFF ranked Kentucky with the 5th best OL in the entire country.
They're currently set to bring back 4 of 5 starters. pic.twitter.com/hgtCuKmfKZ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 7, 2020
Of the five linemen, offensive tackle Darian Kinnard graded the highest at 86.3 which put him 14th overall in college football. True Blue Fans got some great news when tackle Landon Young decided to return for his senior season.
To be continued… pic.twitter.com/mYG5PjJu73
— Landon Young (@Landon_Young_67) January 3, 2020
With only Logan Stenberg graduating look for Kentucky’s offensive line to rank near the top again in 2020.
As we continue with our 2019 Kentucky Football Awards let’s move to the defense.
Outstanding Achievement On Defense
Defensive MVP- Calvin Taylor- Coming out of high school the six-foot-nine Taylor had one offer to play football from Temple. In fact, he didn’t get an offer from Kentucky until well after signing day. After moving to the defensive line Taylor steadily improved and had a break out senior year.
He finished second in the SEC with eight and a half sacks and in forced fumbles with three. The Augusta, Georgia native also had 36 tackles with nine and a half coming for a loss. In addition, he had four pass deflections. A season ago two-star recruit Josh Allen set the school record for sacks and was the seventh pick in the draft. Taylor won’t be a first-round pick but he’s put himself in a great position to make an NFL roster. If we were giving a “Most Improved” award Taylor would get that also.
Defensive runner-up- Yusuf Corker– Much like we did on offense it would be easy to pick the entire secondary here. As a result of losing the entire starting secondary from a year ago, the group was considered the biggest weakness heading into 2019. However, they had a strong season and Corker was one of the catalysts.
The sophomore led the team in tackles with 74, five more than DeAndre Square. Corker also had one interception and four pass deflections. However, his biggest moment of the year came against Tennessee-Martin when he returned a fumble for a touchdown. The Cats return almost the entire secondary in 2020 so look for that to be a strength.
Finishing up our 2019 Kentucky Football Awards it’s time for the best win. Obviously this one comes as no surprise.
37-30 Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech- Over the years Kentucky’s played in 19 bowl games, many of them memorable ones. However, nothing may top the Belk Bowl win over the Hokies. The Cats trailed for most of the game before an 18 play 85-yard drive capped by the Bowden pass to Ali gave Kentucky the win.
How good was the game? CBS Sports ranked it the best bowl game of the 2019 season.
B E S T B O W L https://t.co/5ymLuTw1Az
— Belk Bowl (@belkbowl) January 8, 2020
Runner-up- Blowout win over Louisville- Beating your biggest rival is good. However, completely running them off the field is even more special. In the 45-13 win, Kentucky ran for a school-record 517 yards and broke the single-season rushing yardage record. It was the first win at home in the “Battle For The Governor’s Cup” since 2009. In addition, it’s the first time Kentucky’s won in back to back years since they won four straight from 2007- 2010.
Thanks for checking out our 2019 Kentucky Football Awards here at Last Word On College Football. Who would be your picks? Drop a comment below or post on twitter. Next time out we’re going to look at the all-decade team on offense.