Looking At The Best Of The New Millennium
It’s time to continue our series counting down Kentucky’s Best Football Victories by each decade. Last time we crowned the Cats 27-16 win over Florida as the greatest win of the most recent decade. Now we’re kicking it back to Y2K when NSYNC and Britney Spears ruled the charts with Kentucky’s best football victories 2000- 2009.
A Decade Of Highs And Lows
Truth be told, the early 2000’s weren’t the greatest for the Kentucky football team. The excitement of two straight bowl games under Hal Mumme in the late 1990’s slowly fell apart reaching rock bottom when the Cats were placed on probation in 2002.
Rich Brooks led the Cats out of probation eventually turning the program around. In fact Kentucky played in four straight bowl games to end the decade, first time in school history. Overall the Cats went 47-71 during the decade and the aforementioned four bowl games. With the history lesson complete let’s start the countdown.
A Big Upset- Number 10
Kentucky 22- Louisville 17- September 1, 2002
Heading into the 2002 season opener, few gave the Wildcats a chance for victory. After all the Cats finished 2-9 the previous season while the Cardinals went 11-2. However in a rivalry game anything can happen. Kentucky’s defense held Dave Ragone to 193 yards passing and picked off one pass. In addition they sacked him three times.
Last Win In Athens- Number 9
Kentucky 34- Georgia 27- November 21, 2009
Trailing 20-6 at the half Kentucky rallied to beat the Bulldogs for their first win in Athens since 1977. Randall Cobb ran for two scores as the Cats forced four second half turnovers. Joe Cox threw for three touchdowns for Georgia however an interception by Shane McCord set up Cobb’s winning score.
This marked the first win for Kentucky in Athens since 1977. In addition it gave the Cats their fourth straight winning season for the first time since the 1950’s. It’s also the last time the Wildcats beat Georgia, losing ten straight.
Not Since The 1960’s- Number 8
Kentucky 21- Auburn 14- October 17, 2009
Rich Brooks’ Kentucky squad trailed the Tigers 14-7 at the half. Midway through the fourth-period quarterback Will Fidler scored on a two-yard run to tie the game. He had replaced Morgan Newton who had started in place of Mike Hartline.
With 3:17 to play Randall Cobb ran it in from four yards out to give the Cats the lead. For the game, Cobb rushed for 109 yards while Derrick Locke had 137. Kentucky’s defense held on the final drive to preserve the victory.
Kentucky beat Auburn for the first time since 1966 and first time on the road since 1964.
An Improbable Victory- Number 7
Kentucky 21- Arkansas 20- October 18, 2008
Late in the fourth quarter, Kentucky trailed the Razorbacks 20-7. However the Cats rallied for a huge come from behind victory. Quarterback Mike Hartline hit Randall Cobb twice for touchdowns, the last coming with 2:21 in the game to give the Cats the lead. On the ensuing drive Marcus McClinton intercepted a Casey Dick pass to seal the Kentucky victory.
The comeback gave Kentucky its first ever win over a Bobby Petrino coached team in five tries.
First Signature Win- Number 6
Kentucky 24- Georgia 20- November 4, 2006
Rich Brooks’ fourth Wildcat squad began the season at 2-4 and there were rumblings about his job security. However the week before the Cats beat Mississippi State on the road. The next week they hosted the defending SEC Champions.
Trailing 20-17 Andre Woodson drove the Cats into scoring position and with 1:21 remaining Tony Dixon’s three yard scamper gave Kentucky the lead. A Trevard Lindley interception of Matthew Stafford sealed the victory breaking a nine game losing streak to Georgia.
The victory marked the “signature win” for Brooks setting one of the most successful periods of Kentucky football into motion. For the first time in school history the Wildcats went to four straight bowl games winning three.
We’re halfway through our look at Kentucky’s Best Football Victories 2000- 2009. Kicking off the second five is a huge bowl victory.
Back To Back Wins Over The ACC- Number 5
Kentucky 35- Florida State 28- Music City Bowl- December 31, 2007
For a second straight season the Cats were selected to play in the Music City Bowl. Once again they faced another ACC squad. Behind Woodson, the game’s MVP, Kentucky raced out to a 28-14 lead after three quarters.
Despite being without 34 players due to injuries and suspensions the Seminoles rallied in the fourth period. 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.
It was the first time since the 1950’s Kentucky won consecutive bowl games. Furthermore it marked the first time in history Bobby Bowden lost a December bowl game.
Come From Behind Victory- Number 4
Kentucky 25- East Carolina 19- Liberty Bowl- January 2, 2009
Following the 2008 season Kentucky was selected to play in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Rich Brooks’ club trailed 16-3 at the half before rallying. David Jones took the second half kick off 99 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to seven. A pass from Mike Hartline to Kyrus Lanxter tied the game 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.
The win over East Carolina gave Kentucky its third straight bowl victory for the only time in history.
First Time In 12 Years- Number 3
Kentucky 28- Clemson 20- Music City Bowl- December 29, 2006
It had been seven years since the Wildcats played in a bowl game. Andre Woodson led the Kentucky attack throwing for 299 yards and three touchdowns. However, it was the much-maligned Wildcat defense who helped win the game. The nations’ second-worst defense forced four turnovers and held the potent Tiger offense at bay until the games’ final few minutes.
In front of a record crowd in Nashville Kentucky won their first bowl game since 1984. It would be the first of four straight postseason appearances under Brooks.
We’re almost done with our look at Kentucky’s Best Football Victories 2000-2009. Time to wrap it up with two of the best wins in school history, and they happened within a month of each other.
Stevie Got Loose- Number 2
Kentucky 40- Louisville 34- September 15, 2007
About the game- The two rivals traded the lead back and forth over the course of the game. With 1:45 left Anthony Allen‘s two yard touchdown run gave the Cardinals a 34-33 lead.
Andre Woodson drove the Cats down the field for a potential winning score. However a 15 yard personal foul moved the ball back to the Kentucky 43. Woodson threw a perfect pass to Stevie Johnson who had gotten behind the secondary for the win.
As a result of the win Kentucky broke a three game losing streak in the “Battle for the Governor’s Cup.” In addition it was the school’s first win over a Top 10 team since 1977. It’s also the greatest game in the Kentucky versus Louisville football rivalry.
The Biggest Win In School History- Number 1
Kentucky 43- LSU 37 (3OT’s)- October 13, 2007
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.
The victory marked the first win by Kentucky over a number one ranked team since 1964. As a result it garnered our vote as the greatest win in school history.
Thanks for checking out Kentucky’s Best Football Victories 2000- 2009 here at Last Word On College Football. Next time we’ll look at the 1990’s.