Kentucky Football’s Greatest Win: The Jerry Claiborne Bracket
Hello everyone and welcome back to our ongoing contest to determine Kentucky Football’s Greatest Win. Today, we move over to the Jerry Claiborne bracket with four more games. Claiborne coached the Wildcats from 1982-1989 leading Kentucky to two bowl games with one victory. Before we get started let’s take another look at the entire bracket.
(Bracket artwork courtesy @2cool4air. All photos courtesy Getty Images)
Jerry Claiborne Bracket
(1)- Kentucky vs. Alabama 1997 against (8)- Kentucky vs. Auburn 2009
Kentucky 40- Alabama 34 (Overtime)
About the game– In 1997 the Crimson Tide was nowhere near the juggernaut they are now. In fact, they finished the season at 4-7. However, coming in the game on October 4th Mike DuBose’s club was ranked 20th in the country.
The two teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the game. However, Kentucky took a 34-31 lead when Anwar Stewart returned a blocked kick 68 yards for a score. A late field goal by the Tide set the stage for an incredible finish. On a third and 11 from the 26, Tim Couch hit Craig Yeast for the score and win. Fans rushed the field and the goal posts came down.
Why this game is important– It was the first time since 1922 Kentucky beat Alabama and second time in history. Many say it’s the greatest game ever at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky 21- Auburn 14
About the game– 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.
Why this game is important- Kentucky beat Auburn for the first time since 1966 and first time on the road since 1964.
(4)- Kentucky vs. Ole Miss 1964 against (5)- Kentucky vs. East Carolina 2009
Kentucky 27- Ole Miss 21
About the game- In the second game of the 1964 season the Wildcats hit the road to face the number one ranked Rebels. Quarterback Rick Norton threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns and added another rushing score. Wide receiver Rick Kestner had a career game with nine receptions for 185 yards and three touchdowns.
With 2:38 remaining and the Cats trailing 21-20 Norton hit Kestner with a 22-yard pass which turned out to be the game winner. In addition, the Kentucky defense came up huge forcing five Ole Miss turnovers.
Why this game is important– The win marked the second time in history Kentucky beat the number one ranked team. Furthermore, it went down as the best win of the 1960’s and coach Charley Bradshaw.
Kentucky 25- East Carolina 19
About the game- 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 making a huge rally. 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.
Why this game is important- The win over East Carolina gave Kentucky its third straight bowl victory for the only time in history.
As we continue with the Jerry Claiborne bracket to find Kentucky’s greatest football win we have a battle of Louisville and South Carolina contests.
(2)- Kentucky vs. Louisville 2016 against (7)- Kentucky vs. South Carolina 1995
Kentucky 41- Louisville 38
About the game- Heading into the final game of the 2016 season Kentucky had lost five straight in the Battle for the Governor’s Cup. In addition, Mark Stoops‘ squad came in as a four-touchdown underdog against Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.
With the game tied at 38, Jackson led Louisville deep into Kentucky territory for a game-winning score. However, he fumbled and Courtney Love recovered at the 10-yard line. From there Johnson moved the Cats into field goal position. “Mr. Clutch” Austin Macginnis hit a 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining giving the Cats the upset in one of the series best games.
Stephen Johnson threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals defense while Jackson amassed 452 yards of total offense. However, Jackson’s four turnovers proved costly.
Why this game is important- Kentucky broke a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals and secured their first seven-win season since 2009.
Kentucky 35- South Carolina 30
About the game- For Kentucky fans, this will be forever known as the “Moe Williams” game. The Wildcats star running back ran for 299 yards and four touchdowns. In addition ,he finished the game with 429 all purpose yards, the most ever in the Southeastern Conference. At the time it ranked as the second highest total in NCAA history. Behind Williams’ incredible game and some timely defensive stops, the Cats held off a late Gamecock rally.
Why this game is important- Williams broke Herschel Walker‘s record of 219 yards rushing against South Carolina. Furthermore, it remains the greatest single game performance in Kentucky history.
One more set of games to go in the Jerry Claiborne bracket in our quest to find what is Kentucky’s greatest football victory. The final match up features another Louisville versus South Carolina contest.
(3)- Kentucky vs. Louisville 1998 against (6)- Kentucky vs. South Carolina 2010
Kentucky 68- Louisville 34
About the game- The first four games in the renewal of the series were all played in Lexington. To kick off the 1998 season Louisville christened Papa John’s Stadium hosting the Cats.
Behind Tim Couch, the Kentucky offense was nearly as hot as the 100 degree heat torching the Cards for a school record 801 yards. Couch finished with 478 yards passing and seven touchdowns in the high water mark for Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid” offense.
Why this game is important- Couch was nearly perfect in this game posting a quarterback rating of 240. The victory jump started a Kentucky season which ended in the Outback Bowl.
Kentucky 31- South Carolina 28
About the game– You may notice a pattern in many of these contests, a huge rally by Kentucky. This game back in 2010 was no different. Joker Phillips’ Cats went into the half trailing 28-10.
However, the Wildcat defense came up big in the second half holding Stephen Garcia and the 10th ranked Gamecocks to only 103 yards. With 1:15 remaining Randall Cobb caught a 24 yard pass from Mike Hartline to put the Cats in the lead. He followed that up with a two point conversion to cement the win.
Why this game is important- Kentucky snapped a 10 game losing streak to South Carolina. In addition, they beat a Steve Spurrier coached team for the first time in 18 tries.
Who Wins The Games?
Now that we’ve gone through the games it’s time to pick some winners to move onto the Sweet 16.
The 1997 Alabama win over the 2009 Auburn game.
In a mild upset the 2009 East Carolina win over the 1964 Ole Miss victory.
2016 Louisville over the 1995 South Carolina win.
The 1998 Louisville win over the 2010 victory against South Carolina.
Those are the picks from us, what do you think? Leave a comment below or respond to me on Twitter.
Thanks for checking out Kentucky Football’s Greatest Win in the Jerry Claiborne bracket. Over the next week, we will close out the first round with the Mark Stoops bracket. In addition, a wrap up of the 2019 spring football game.