Mark Story

Ranking the 50 best Kentucky football wins of all time: Nos. 50-41

Mark Stoops relives game-changing moment from win at Missouri last year

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops remembered a key moment from last year’s come-from-behind win over Missouri on the road.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops remembered a key moment from last year’s come-from-behind win over Missouri on the road.

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Kentucky’s 50 Best All-Time Football Wins

Mark Story, sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com, is counting down the 50 best wins in University of Kentucky football history. Click below to view previous installments of this five-part series.


Historically, following Kentucky football has not been for the faint of heart.

The pigskin Cats have an all-time losing record (616-621-44). A member of the Southeastern Conference since 1933, UK has endured 15 seasons in which it did not win a league game. Conversely, Kentucky has had only eight years with a winning mark in SEC contests.

Yet, even amid ample suffering, the football Wildcats have produced moments of exhilaration, too. This summer, for both the fun and challenge of it, I set out to rank the 50 best Kentucky Wildcats football wins of all time.

All-time, Kentucky has 44 victories over ranked foes, 13 over top-10 teams — and three over opponents who entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country.

UK has won nine bowl games, two of them major bowls. The Cats have beaten teams that went on to win an SEC Division championship three times and beaten the teams that won the overall SEC league title twice.

Twice, Kentucky has beaten the football teams that went on to be recognized as the national champion.

Any list such as this is subjective, of course. My list of the 50 best Kentucky Wildcats football wins is filled with games that featured:

1.) major UK upsets; 2.) victories over teams that went on to have stellar seasons; 3.) victories that ended the decades-plus losing streaks vs. opponents that have been a frustrating part of “the Kentucky football experience;” 4.) bowl wins; 5.) victories in rivalry games; 6.) wins with memorable finishes.

On the countdown of Kentucky’s 50 Best All-Time Football Wins, here are numbers 50 through 41:

50

The game: Kentucky 29, Tennessee 26, 2017 regular season

The plot: UK star running back Benny Snell ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns and Wildcats quarterback Stephen Johnson dove into the Kroger Field end zone to complete an 11-yard TD run with 33 seconds left in the game to rally Kentucky to victory.

Why the game mattered: UK earned bowl eligibility with only its second win over its southern border rival since 1984.

Lexington newspaper headline: Bowling ’em over: Clutch TD drive sends Tennessee to 0-5 in SEC

UK coach: Mark Stoops

Stephen Johnson's UT TD dive
Stephen Johnson dove into the end zone to score the winning touchdown in Kentucky’s 29-26 win over Tennessee at Kroger Field in 2017. It was only UK’s second victory over UT since 1984. Ken Weaver

49

The game: Kentucky 24, Georgia 20, 2006 regular season

The plot: Andre Woodson threw for two touchdowns, Tony Dixon ran 3 yards for the game-winning TD with 1:21 left and Trevard Lindley then sealed the victory with an interception of Matthew Stafford.

Why the game mattered: Kentucky’s first victory over Georgia since 1996 and a “signature victory” for a Cats program forced to rebuild after the NCAA sanctions that followed the Hal Mumme-era cheating scandal.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats incredible: UK takes Dogs’ best shots, sets off raucous celebration

UK coach: Rich Brooks

Goalposts after Ga upset.JPG
Kentucky fans tore down a Commonwealth Stadium goal post after UK beat Georgia 24-20 in 2006. David Perry Herald-Leader

48

The game: Kentucky 39, No. 21 LSU 36, 1998 regular season

The plot: Tim Couch threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns and Quentin McCord ran 38 yards on an end around with just more than a minute left to set up Seth Hanson’s 33-yard, game-winning field goal.

Why the game mattered: Kentucky’s first road victory over a ranked foe in 21 years.

Lexington newspaper headline: Reversal of fortunes: Kentucky jolts LSU when end around leads to field goal as time expires

UK coach: Hal Mumme

Tim Couch at LSU 1998.JPG
Tim Couch (2) celebrated in the background as Anthony White scored a Kentucky touchdown in what became a 39-36 upset of No. 21 LSU at Tiger Stadium in 1998. FRANK ANDERSON LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

47

The game: Kentucky 16, Centre College 0, 1925 regular season

The plot: Ab Kirwan and Frank Phipps ran for touchdowns and Gayle Mohney scored on a drop kick as UK handed Centre its first home loss of the 1920s.

Why the game mattered: In an era when UK vs. Centre was to the commonwealth what Kentucky vs. Louisville is now, the Wildcats snapped a seven-year losing streak vs. the Colonels in which Centre had outscored the Cats 207-3.

Lexington newspaper headline: Wildcats humiliate Old Centre, By 16 to 0

UK coach: Fred J. Murphy

Centre vs Kentucky football from 1921.JPG
Centre’s domination of the University of Kentucky in football in the early 1920s included this 55-0 beatdown of the Wildcats in 1921. However, in 1925, UK finally turned the tables on the Colonels, ending a seven-year losing skid vs. Centre. Centre College

46

The game: Kentucky 12, Tennessee 10, 1962 regular season

The plot: UK halfback Darrell Cox (201 total yards) outgained Tennessee (133 yards total offense) by himself and Clarkie Mayfield booted a 19-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to give the Cats a victory in Knoxville.

Thin Thirty after beating Tennessee
Kentucky football players carried the Beer Barrel that was annually given to the winner of the UK-Tennessee game off the team plane at Lexington’s Blue Grass Field on Nov. 24, 1962, after the Wildcats beat the Volunteers 12-10 on Clarkie Mayfield’s field goal with 16 seconds left in the game. The players in the picture are, left row, from bottom, Mayfield; Darrell Cox, who scored Kentucky’s lone touchdown; Ray Heffington and Frank Sakal. Right row, from bottom, Herschel Turner, holding the Beer Barrel, Jim Hill, Jim Komara and Jerry Woolum. Herald-Leader Archive Photo

Why the game mattered: Down to 26 healthy players for the 1962 regular-season finale, UK’s “Thin Thirty” ended a trying season on a celebratory note.

Lexington newspaper headline: Kentucky rallies to ‘Kick’ Tennessee by 12-10

UK coach: Charlie Bradshaw

45

The game: Kentucky 34, Georgia 27, 2009 regular season

The plot: Randall Cobb ran for two touchdowns and Derrick Locke caught two TD passes as UK rallied from 20-6 down at halftime to win on the road.

Why the game mattered: Kentucky’s first victory “Between the Hedges” in Athens in 32 years.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats turn the corner: UK earns first win in Athens since 1977

UK coach: Rich Brooks

Derrick Locke vs Georgia.JPG
Kentucky’s Derrick Locke took this Morgan Newton pass 60 yards for a touchdown as UK rallied from 20-6 down at halftime to a 34-27 win at Georgia in 2009.

44

The game: Kentucky 34, No. 14 Tulane 7, 1973 regular season

The plot: Sonny Collins ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Mike Fanuzzi expertly ran UK’s veer-option before leaving in the fourth quarter with a concussion.

Why the game mattered: A blowout upset of previously 6-0 Tulane.

Lexington newspaper headline: Fanuzzi can’t ‘recall’ Cats bowling over Tulane

Kentucky coach: Fran Curci

Sonny Collins
Sonny Collins starred as Kentucky scored its first win over a ranked team since 1970 in a 34-7 upset of No. 14 and previously unbeaten Tulane in 1973. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

43

The game: Kentucky 21, Auburn 14, 2009 regular season

The plot: With starting quarterback Mike Hartline sidelined by injury, Kentucky played three different QBs — Randall Cobb, Will Fidler and Morgan Newton — and all three scored a rushing touchdown as UK rallied from 14-7 down in the fourth quarter to win.

Why the game mattered: UK’s first win at Auburn since 1961.

Lexington newspaper headline: Upset by committee: All three UK quarterbacks score touchdowns to drop Auburn

UK coach: Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks after beating Auburn.JPG
Auburn Coach Gene Chizik, left, shook hands with UK Coach Rich Brooks after Kentucky’s 21-14 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2009.

42

The game: No. 8 Kentucky 33, Georgia 0, 1977 regular season

The plot: Derrick Ramsey threw three touchdown passes and a dominant UK defense held Georgia to 64 total yards through the first three quarters as Kentucky romped in Athens.

Why the game mattered: England’s Prince Charles, on a tour of the United States and wishing to see “how American college students spent their Saturday afternoons,” attended the game at Sanford Stadium.

Lexington newspaper headline: ‘Royal’ Cats rip Georgia, 33-0

UK Coach: Fran Curci

Derrck Ramsey vs Georgia.JPG
Known for his running prowess, Kentucky quarterback Derrick Ramsey (12) crossed up Georgia by throwing for three touchdowns in UK’s 33-0 shutout victory over the home-standing Bulldogs in 1977. David Perry Herald-Leader

41

The game: No. 12 Kentucky 15, Missouri 14, 2018 regular season

The plot: Down 14-3 inside the final 5:30 of the game, UK got a 67-yard punt return touchdown from Lynn Bowden and a last-play, 2-yard touchdown pass from Terry Wilson to C.J. Conrad to stun Mizzou.

Why the game mattered: After decades in which the football gods often seemed to have a hex on Kentucky, the Wildcats benefited from a controversial pass interference call on Mizzou that extended the game with an untimed down that yielded UK’s winning score.

Lexington newspaper headline: ‘Big-time guys stepped up’: Wildcats rally for tough road win at Missouri

UK coach: Mark Stoops

C.J. Conrad game-winning catch
Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad caught the game-winning touchdown on the final play in UK’s 15-14 win at Missouri. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

(All newspaper headlines cited are from the Lexington Herald-Leader and/or its predecessors).

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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