The Kentucky Wildcats began playing football all the way back in 1881. Since then they have a record of 615 wins and 621 losses with 44 ties. In addition, they are 9-9 in bowl games. However, which of those 615 victories is the best? That’s what we are going to find out as we search for Kentucky’s greatest football victory.
What Is Kentucky’s Greatest Football Victory?
About The Rules
In honor of the NCAA Tournament we are going to have our own version of the big dance. Scouring the Kentucky football record books we came up with 32 of the school’s biggest wins. From there we divided them into four groups of eight, and seeded them. Furthermore we named each bracket after a Kentucky coach. As we continue looking to find what is Kentucky’s greatest football victory we start with the Bear Bryant bracket. One more thing before we begin here is a look at the entire bracket.
(Bracket artwork courtesy @2cool4air. All photos courtesy Getty Images)
Bear Bryant Bracket
(1) Kentucky vs. Oklahoma 1951 against (8) Kentucky vs. Georgia 2009.
Kentucky 13- Oklahoma 7
About the Game- Following the 1950 season the Cats were selected to play in the Sugar Bowl against the Number One ranked Sooners. Under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson Oklahoma came into the game on a 31 game winning streak.
Bear Bryant’s club jumped out to an early 13-0 lead at the half. The Cats scored on a pass from Babe Parilli to Wilbur Jamerson and another rushing score by Jamerson. For much of the game the Wildcats’ three tackle defense led by Outland Trophy Winner Bob Gain kept the Sooners at bay. However it was Walt Yowarsky who starred for the Wildcat defense. Bryant’s move of Yowarsky from offense to defense help offset the Sooners split T offense which averaged 35 points a game. In fact at some points the Cats featured nine players on the line of scrimmage.
With two fumble recoveries and a sack, Yowarsky was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Ironically, he had only played a few minutes on defense during the season. Many years later computer guru Jeff Sagarin released a retroactive rankings for 1950 and listed Kentucky number one. This led the school to claim its only National Championship.
Why This Game Is Important- Quite simply for many it is the biggest win in school history. In snapping Oklahoma’s 31 game winning streak it gave the Cats and Bear Bryant their first championship.
Kentucky 34- Georgia 27- 2009
About the game- 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.
The Bulldogs had two more chances to tie however Danny Trevathan recovered a Washaun Ealey fumble at the one yard line. On the next series Sam Maxwell intercepted Cox to seal the game. Morgan Newton threw for three touchdowns and 137 yards to lead the Cats.
Why This Game Is Important- 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.
(4) Kentucky vs. Tennessee 2011 against (5) Kentucky vs. Louisville 2008
Kentucky 10- Tennessee 7- 2011
Heading into the season finale the Wildcats had lost 26 straight to the Volunteers. Number 27 looked likely with quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton out due to injuries. Enter senior wide receiver Matt Roark to lead the Cats to an improbable victory.
Roark rushed 24 times for 124 yards and Coshik Williams ran for the Wildcats’ only score. Joker Phillips’ game plan was simple, run misdirection plays to catch Tennessee off guard and rely on defense. The plan worked as the Kentucky defense forced three second half turnovers. Even though the Cats didn’t make a bowl for the first time in five years Phillips received a Gatorade bath for ending the losing streak to Tennessee.
Why This Game Is Important- The Cats broke a 26 year losing streak to their rivals and first win at home over Tennessee since 1981.
Kentucky 27- Louisville 2- 2008
One year after beating the Cards in one of the best games ever in the series, the Cats thoroughly dominated Louisville on the road. Both Ashton Cobb and Myron Pryor ran back fumbles for touchdowns and the Cats set up another score with an interception.
At the end of the day Rich Brooks’ squad forced five turnovers and held the Cardinals to only 215 yards. In addition Steve Kragthorpe’s team failed to scored a touchdown for the first time since a shutout loss to Florida State in 2000.
Why This Game Is Important- It was the second straight win for the Cats in the Battle For The Governors’ Cup after losing four straight.
As we continue with the Bear Bryant bracket in our quest to find what is Kentucky’s greatest football victory let’s look at the final two games.
(2) Kentucky vs. Mississippi State 2016 vs. (7) Kentucky vs. Arkansas 2008
Kentucky 40- Mississippi State 38- 2016
Following an 0-2 start Mark Stoops‘ club had battled back to a 3-3 record. However their were rumblings the UK Coach could be on the hot seat should the Cats not make a bowl game. The two teams traded scores and early in the fourth quarter Kentucky led 34-24. However the Bulldogs battled back to take a 38-37 lead with a little over a minute to go.
With nine seconds remaining quarterback Stephen Johnson hit Jeff Badet with an 18 yard pass down to the Mississippi State 33 yard line. From there Austin Macginnis nailed a 51 yard field goal giving the Cats an improbable victory.
Why This Game Is Important- Not only was it the first victory over a Dan Mullen coached team but it helped springboard the Cats to a Tax Slayer Bowl berth.
Kentucky 21- Arkansas 20- 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.
Why This Game Is Important- The comeback win gave Kentucky its first ever win over a Bobby Petrino coached team in five tries.
(3) Kentucky vs. Louisville 2018 vs. (6) Kentucky vs. Tennessee 1977
Kentucky 56- Louisville 10- 2018
The Cats closed out their best regular season in 41 years with a blowout victory over the Cardinals. Kentucky scored on all five of their first half possessions en route to the biggest win in the Battle For The Governor’s Cup since 1922. Furthermore the Cats ran up season highs in points and yards with 601.
Why This Game Is Important- The Cats finished their best regular season since 1977 with the biggest win over the Cards in almost 100 years.
Kentucky 21- Tennessee 17- 1977
All that remained between the Cats and their first 10-win season since 1950 was a victory over the Volunteers. However Fran Curci’s squad was missing seven starters including quarterback Derrick Ramsey. Late in the game with Kentucky trailing 17-14 Ramsey entered the game leading the Cats to a score.
Tennessee moved the ball down to the Widcats’ 22-yard line with a chance to win. However, All-American defensive end Art Still forced a Jimmy Streater fumble that was recovered by Kelly Kirchbaum . The Cats ran out the clock for the win.
Why This Game Is Important- Not only did a victory over Tennessee preserve the Cats first 10 win season since 1950 it also marked the first time Kentucky went undefeated (6-0) in conference play.
Who Wins The Games?
Now that we’ve gone through all the Bear Bryant bracket let’s pick who wins. For this one we are going with all the higher seed games. As a result this gives up the following.
1951 Oklahoma over 2009 Georgia 2011 Tennessee over 2008 Louisville 2016 Mississippi State over Arkansas 2008 2018 Louisville over 1977 Tennessee
Thanks for checking out the first set of games in the quest to find what is Kentucky’s greatest football victory. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below or respond back on my twitter page. Next time out we will go through the Rich Brooks bracket. Thanks for reading this and all the great content here at Last Word On College Football.