More Of The Best From The Past Year
Welcome back to our countdown of Kentucky football’s best of 2022. Thanks to everyone who checked out the first installment. If you haven’t seen our winners for individual trophies you can click here. Today we’re shifting the focus from individual to team prizes. Let’s recap the good (and the bad) with our 2022 Kentucky Football team awards. First up is the best win of 2022.
The winner- Kentucky 26- Florida 16- September 1oth– While neither team’s season was the way they wanted this was still a huge deal. Following a bad snap on a punt resulting in a safety the Cats trailed 16-7 midway through the second quarter. Of course, bad special teams were a recurring thing in 2022. It seemed like this trip to Gainesville would end like so many others as UK had won only once in “The Swamp” since 1979.
Right before the half, Jordan Wright intercepted an Anthony Richardson pass returning it to the Gators six yard line. A Will Levis one-yard run cut the lead to three at the half.
In the second half, it was all Kentucky as they took control. Matt Ruffolo tied it up with a 24-yard field goal. On the ensuing possession, Keidron Smith took another Richardson pass 65 yards to the house and just like that Kentucky was up 23-16. Brad White’s defense turned Florida over on downs twice in the fourth quarter and brought home a 26-16 win.
With the win, Mark Stoops passed Bear Bryant as the school’s all-time wins leader with 61. Remember two games into his fourth season the UK head man was 12-26. Since then he’s gone 54-33 with two 10 win seasons and four bowl wins.
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) September 11, 2022
In addition, the win marked the first time Kentucky beat Florida in consecutive seasons since 1976-1977.
Though they didn’t win a couple of other games earned consideration for the best Kentucky victory of 2022. Let’s check those out.
Kentucky 27- Mississippi State 17- October 15th- The Wildcats’ final time playing against former offensive coordinator Mike Leach was a winning one. Behind 197 yards and two touchdowns from Chris Rodriguez UK led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Levis bugaboo, the interception, reared its ugly head. Emmanuel Forbes‘ pick-six cut the lead to three with plenty of time remaining. C-Rod’s second touchdown put the Cats back up by 10 and the defense did the rest in a 27-17 victory.
Kentucky 26- Louisville 13- November 26th– Beating your instate rival is always a good thing. Kentucky extended their winning streak over the Cards to four in a row with a 26-13 win and retaining the Governor’s Cup. In their final games in Lexington Levis threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns while Rodriguez ran for 120.
Continuing on with our 2022 Kentucky Football Team Award let’s look at the not-so-good from the past year.
A Really Bad Loss
The winner (or loser)- Vanderbilt 24- Kentucky 21- November 12th- The Commodores hadn’t won an SEC game since beating Missouri on October 19, 2019, 21-14. If you’re scoring at home that’s 26 straight losses.
Behind 100 yards game from Ray Davis and Mike Wright Vandy ended their streak with a road win. Clark Lea’s squad ran up 448 yards and finished the upset when Wright hit Will Sheppard with an eight-yard pass with 32 seconds to go.
A couple of other losses were pretty awful in 2022. However, those didn’t quite equal this one.
Games To Forget
Ole Miss 22 Kentucky 19- October 1st- The Wildcats headed into this game at Oxford 4-0 and ranked seventh in the country. UK rallied after falling behind 19-6 tying it up with a Levis to Jordan Dingle touchdown. Jonathan Cruz made a 26-yard field goal late in the third and that was all the scoring.
The Wildcats had chance after chance but couldn’t convert. Early in the fourth quarter, they turned it over on downs. They still had two chances to win, however, they couldn’t convert. Levis fumbled at the Ole Miss 18 ending one drive. With one final chance, Levis again fumbled after a game-winning touchdown was called back due to an illegal motion penalty.
Iowa 21- Kentucky 0 – Music City Bowl- December 31, 2022- Several UK players sat this one out including Levis and Rodriguez. Many in the Big Blue Nation weren’t interested in a rematch of a game we saw 364 days earlier. In fact, the only people who seemed excited were the Music City Bowl selection committee.
With Levis out Kentucky turned to freshman Destin Wade who was in a tough spot for his first career start. The Wildcat defense did its best to keep them in the game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Hawkeye defense dominated in a 21-0 win. How bad was it for the Cats, take a look.
Kentucky's offense today vs Iowa:
– Pick Six
– Pick Six
– Turnover on Downs
– Turnover on Downs pic.twitter.com/aBMAOzPG5m
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 31, 2022
We can’t end this thing on a downer so as we finish up our 2022 Kentucky Football Team Awards we’re picking a top group. The nominees are defensive backs, linebackers, and wide receivers.
And The Winner Is
Kentucky’s Linebackers Group- The entire squad was hit hard by injuries in 2022. However none more than the linebackers. Starters Jacquez Jones and DeAndre Square missed considerable time this past season. With that next-man-up mentality, the Cats hardly missed a beat as six of the top ten tacklers from 2022 came from that position.
Two of those players who stepped up were D’Eryk Jackson and Trevin Wallace. Jackson led the team with 67 stops and Wallace came in fifth with 54. In addition, he was second on the squad with 2.5 sacks. Both are back in 2023 meaning UK will have another outstanding unit in the upcoming season.
Thanks for checking out our 2022 Kentucky Football Team Awards here at Last Word On College Football. Now that we’ve put the previous year to rest it’s time to focus on 2023.