Continuing Our Decade By Decade Recap
Welcome to the third installment of Kentucky’s greatest football victories. We are going decade by decade through the history books. In case you missed it the best win of the 2010’s was the streak busting win over Florida. The best win of 2000-2009 era was the upset of number one LSU. Today we head back to the era that started with grunge music and ended with an onslaught of boy bands. Let’s kick off our countdown of Kentucky Football’s Best Wins of the 1990’s with a history lesson.
A Good And Bad Decade
The Wildcat football team went 44-69 overall during the 1990’s. However they did play in three bowl games, unfortunately losing all of them. The squad had two head coaches during the decade. Bill Curry took over in 1990 after Jerry Claiborne retired. After Curry was let go in 1996 he was replaced by Hal Mumme and his “Air Raid” offense. Looking back at the decade there were some really good wins and let’s start the countdown with number ten.
First Flight Of The Air Raid
Number 10- Kentucky 35- Louisville 21- August 30th, 1997
After winning the first game in the renewal of the “Battle For The Governor’s Cup” (more on that later), the Wildcats dropped the next two. Enter Mumme and his brand new offense featuring Mike Leach as offensive coordinator.
The pass happy attack paid immediate dividends for Kentucky as Tim Couch threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns. In addition it gave the future number one draft pick his first college win.
Bayou Bengal Blowout
Number 9- Kentucky 31- LSU 5- October 16, 1999
The Cats and Tigers played almost every year from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. All-time LSU leads by a 40-16 margin with one tie. However during the decade of the 90’s the Cats went 5-5. Furthermore this contest wrapped up a rare two game win streak for Mumme’s squad.
Kentucky jumped on LSU early following a 56 yard punt return by Kendrick Shanklin two minutes into the game. From there the Cats never let up cruising to their biggest win ever against the Tigers. Dusty Bonner threw for 294 yards and Kentucky added 164 more on the ground.
The Cats ended the season in the Music City Bowl while Dinardo would be fired and replaced by a young up and comer named Nick Saban. Whatever happened to that guy anyway?
Up next in our countdown of Kentucky Football’s Best Wins of the 1990’s are a couple of big upsets.
A Win For Coach Curry
Number 8- Kentucky 24- Georgia 17- October 26, 1996
Seven games into the 1996 season athletic director C.M. Newton informed Bill Curry he would not return next year. As a result the team rallied around it’s coach. Led by defensive captain Van Hiles the team took the K’s off the right side of their helmets then went out and beat the Bulldogs.
Marc Logan ran for 140 yards on a school record 41 carries to lead the offense. Leading 17-10 late in the third quarter Hiles intercepted a Mike Bobo pass. Seven plays later Logan scored putting the Cats up by 14. However Georgia rallied cutting the lead to seven. But Leman Boyd picked out another Bobo pass to clinch the win.
Top 25 Shutout
Number 7- Kentucky 21- Ole Miss 0- October 2, 1993
Billy Brewer’s Rebels came into Lexington with the nation’s second ranked defense. However it was the Kentucky unit who dominated the game getting their first SEC shutout since 1977.
Led by quarterback Pookie Jones Kentucky held the ball for 38 minutes and outgained the 25th ranked Rebels 330-201. In addition Ole Miss got no farther than the UK 32 yard line for the game.
Kentucky rode the momentum of this win to an eventual Peach Bowl bid against Clemson.
A Rivalry Renewed
Number 6- Kentucky 20- Louisville 14- September 3, 1994
As much excitement as there is for the annual Battle For The Governor’s Cup now, it was at a fever pitch 26 years ago. The Cats and Cards met on the gridiron for the first time in 70 years.
As for the contest itself the Cats won in dramatic fashion at quarterback Antonio O’Ferral scored on a draw late in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Donte’ Key set up the winning score with a fumble recover. He then sealed the victory with an interception of UL quarterback Marty Lowe.
Following the game Kentucky coach Bill Curry presented the game ball to the family of Trent DiGiuro. The lineman had been murdered less than two months earlier.
Unfortunately for Kentucky the win over Louisville was the lone highlight of the season. The Cats dropped the final 10 games to finish at 1-10.
We are half way through out countdown of Kentucky Football’s Best Wins of the 1990’s. Up next are a couple of historic performances.
History Making Performance
Number 5- Kentucky 35- South Carolina 30- September 23, 1995
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.
Williams broke Herschel Walker’s record of 219 yards rushing against South Carolina. Furthermore, it remains the greatest single game performance in Kentucky history. Lynn Bowden nearly eclipsed it against Louisville this past year with his 284 yard game.
Number 4- Kentucky 37- Mississippi State 35- November 7, 1998
With star quarterback Tim Couch playing with a sprained thumb the Cats found themselves down 29-18 in the third quarter. However the “Air Raid” offense got going scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions. The final coming on a pass from Couch to Craig Yeast putting the Cats up 37-29.
Couch threw for 338 yards and two scores and Derek Homer added 130 yards rushing and two more touchdowns. As a result the Cats reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 1993 and knocked off the eventual SEC West champions.
Continuing with our countdown of Kentucky Football’s Best Wins Of the 1990’s is the pinnacle of the “Air Raid” offense.
Record Setting Rivalry Win
Number 3- Kentucky 68- Louisville 34- September 5, 1998
The first four games in the renewal of the “Battle Of The Bluegrass” 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.
Couch was nearly perfect in this game posting a ridiculous quarterback rating of 240. The victory jump started a Kentucky season which ended in the Outback Bowl.
Winning In Death Valley
Number 2- Kentucky 39- LSU 36- October 16, 1998
Winning in “Death Valley” is a very difficult thing to do. However behind Couch Kentucky did just that. In what many consider the signature win of his career the future number one pick led the Cats to a last second win.
LSU rallied from 14 down in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 36. However Couch marched Kentucky down the field winning the game on a Seth Hanson field goal. For the game he threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns as Kentucky won in Baton Rouge for only the fifth time in school history.
The victory marked the first SEC road win for Kentucky over a ranked team since 1977.
It’s nine down and one to go in our countdown of Kentucky’s Greatest Football Wins of the 1990’s. Long time fans probably knew what was number one but it’s great reliving a huge moment in history.
First Time In 75 Years
Number 1- Kentucky 40- Alabama 34 (Overtime)- October 4, 1997
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 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 sent the game into overtime. However that set the stage for an incredible finish. On a third and 11 from the 26, Couch hit Craig Yeast for the score and win. Fans rushed the field and the goal posts came down.
It was the first time since 1922 Kentucky beat Alabama and second time in history. At the time it was considered the it’s the greatest game ever at Commonwealth Stadium.
Thanks for checking out our countdown of Kentucky Football’s Best Wins of the 1990’s here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back soon to look at the 1980’s and also bring you back to 2020 as we breakdown what is expected to be a huge season for Mark Stoops’ Cats.