Looking At The Best Of The Recent Season
The 202o campaign was like no other for Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats, as it was for the entire college football world. Due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the SEC decided an all conference slate was the way to go. As a result UK missed out on their three “guaranteed wins” plus the rivalry game against Louisville. In “schedule roulette” the Cats ended up with Alabama and Ole Miss. Despite the all conference schedule they finished the season 5-6 ending with a win over North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl, their third straight bowl win. Let’s look back at some of the best of the year with our 2020 Kentucky Football Awards.
Winners- The “Big Blue Wall-” For the first time since 2015 Kentucky didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher. However that was due to a couple of factors. First the Cats only played 11 games in 2020. The second leading rusher Rodriguez missed two games due to COVID issues but still had 785 yards. Overall the group of Luke Fortner, Kenneth Horsey, Drake Jackson, Darian Kinnard and Landon Young ranked as one of the top groups in college football once again.
Running behind the wall Kentucky finished 3rd in the SEC with 2,155 yards on the ground. In addition that put them 16th in the country in total yards and 35th in yards per game. While Jackson and Young are moving onto the NFL Fortner, who is a senior, is taking advantage of the extra year given by the NCAA. If that wasn’t enough to make the Big Blue Nation happy Kinnard surprisingly said he’s also coming back. Hoping to follow in the shoes of Josh Allen, the junior believes he’s a first rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft by returning. As a result 3/5 of the offensive line returns for next year. With Rodriguez coming back as well look for a huge season for Kentucky’s leading rusher.
Winner: Jamin Davis- First off there’s about 12-15 players we could have nominated easily. Just getting down to five was quite the accomplishment. With that said the honors go to Davis for his incredible year. The junior had 102 tackles on the year, the first Wildcat to do that since 2016. He also did it in two less games. His numbers ranked third in the SEC and eighth nationally. In addition he hit double figures in seven of the 11 games. Davis finished second the team with three interceptions including a memorable one for a touchdown against Tennessee.
Davis decided he’s leaving school early and putting his name in the 2021 NFL Draft. His loss leaves a huge void on Brad White’s defense. However it also paves the way for someone else to step up.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
— Jamin Davis (@jamindavis25) January 8, 2021
Now that we’ve handed out the individual trophies with our 2020 Kentucky Football Awards let’s head to a team award.
Nominees- Mississippi State, at Tennessee, 2021 Gator Bowl
The winner- at Tennessee- Kentucky had some great victories in the 2020 season. They held a Mike Leach coached team without an offensive point for the first time ever in a 24-2 victory. They also won their third straight bowl beating North Carolina State 23-21 in the Gator Bowl. However we’re going back to October 17th for the best win. For the first time since 1984 the Cats won in Knoxville.
Not only did they break a 17 game losing streak they did it emphatically 34-7. The Cats forced four turnovers including two interception returns for a touchdown as they totally dominated the Vols. Terry Wilson completed 12 of 15 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in leading the Cats to victory. Following the game offensive line coach John Schlarman was awarded the game ball. Unfortunately it would be the last game he would attend at Kentucky.
Usually when we do these awards we do a worst loss. However with this team going through so much in 2020 we’re going to skip that this time around. Instead as we continue our 2020 Kentucky Football Awards we are going to talk about some of the things this team had to overcome this season.
As mentioned earlier the Tennessee game marked the final one for beloved offensive line coach, who died on November 12th after a two year battle with cancer. He was an all-conference guard at Kentucky in the 1990’s and had been on Stoops’s staff since day one. Schlarman helped build the “Big Blue Wall” at Kentucky which has become one of the best groups not only in the SEC but in college football. The hashtag #SchlarmanStrong was a rallying point for the team in 2020 and his legacy continues on in Lexington.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 17, 2020
Following a strong sophomore year big things were expected out of linebacker Chris Oats. He had 46 tackles including 2.5 for a loss in 2019. However he suffered a serious medical issue in May and was hospitalized for months before finally returning home. During the season the phrase #22OatsStrong became another rallying point for the Wildcats. In every game a different Wildcat player wore Oats’ 22 jersey. As it turned out the player wearing the jersey usually had one of their best games of the year. Whether he’s able to play football again or not, much like Coach Schlarman Oats remains an inspiration to the Kentucky football program.
Our final category in our 2020 Kentucky Football Awards is for someone who’s had a stellar career in Lexington.
Lifetime Achievement Award
While some will argue Terry Wilson didn’t have the best stats, you can’t argue with his success. In his three years at Kentucky Wilson won the second most games in school history (17) trailing only Andre Woodson. Had he not missed most of 2019 with a knee injury he’d be the all-time leader. In addition he’s only the third quarterback in Kentucky history to win two bowl games. The other two are Babe Parilli and Woodson. That’s some pretty good company.
As if that wasn’t enough he’ll always be known as the quarterback who finally broke the 31 game losing streak to Florida. With the win over Tennessee this year he joins Derrick Ramsey as the only Kentucky quarterback to win in both Gainesville and Knoxville. Taking it a step forward Wilson is the only UK signal caller to win at Florida, Louisville and Tennessee. Wilson announced he’s taking advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA. However he’s transferring to another school. Instead of harping on stats he should be remembered simply as a winner.
Thanks for checking out our 2020 Kentucky Football Awards here at Last Word On College Football. Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments section below. Next time out we’re looking at the additions to Stoops’ coaching staff for 2021.