Mark Story

Ranking the 50 best Kentucky football wins of all time: Nos. 20-11

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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 team 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 20 through 11:

20

The game: Kentucky 41, No. 9 Florida 24, 1974 regular season

The plot: Steve Campassi ran for two touchdowns and Mike Fanuzzi and Joe Dipre scored one TD each as UK clawed back from a 17-6 deficit to stun Sugar Bowl-bound Florida.

Why the game mattered: Kentucky’s first win over a top-10 foe in five years.

Lexington newspaper headline: Sugar futures go plunging as ‘sweet’ UK bops Florida

Kentucky coach: Fran Curci

Fran Curci in UK jacket.JPG
After Kentucky upset No. 9 Florida 41-24 in 1974, then-UK coach Fran Curci proclaimed the victory "the most important Kentucky win in modern times." David Perry | Staff

19

The game: Kentucky 20, No. 12 Tennessee 6, 1957 regular season

The plot: Lou Michaels played what his head coach called “the greatest football game I have ever seen a tackle play.” The Kentucky star recovered a Tennessee fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, then set up the other two UK TDs with a forced fumble and then another fumble recovery.

Why the game mattered: UK, 2-7 entering the game, scored one of its greatest upsets ever, beating a Tennessee team that finished 8-3 and won the Gator Bowl.

Lexington newspaper headline: Alert Kentucky romps over Tennessee, 20-6

Kentucky coach: Blanton Collier

Lou Michaels and Blanton Collier.JPG
Blanton Collier, right, called the play of tackle Lou Michaels, left, in Kentucky's 20-6 upset of No. 12 Tennessee in 1957 “the greatest football game I have ever seen a tackle play.”

18

The game: No. 12 Kentucky 33, No. 16 LSU 13, 1977 regular season

The plot: Art Still returned a blocked field goal 52 yards for a touchdown; Dallas Owens brought an interception back 81 yards for a touchdown; and Derrick Ramsey ran for two TDs as UK routed LSU in Baton Rouge.

derrickramsey
Derrick Ramsey ran for two touchdowns in Kentucky's 33-13 spanking of LSU in 1977.

Why the game mattered: Broke a 12-game Kentucky losing streak at Tiger Stadium.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats quiet Tiger roar, 33-13

Kentucky coach: Fran Curci

17

The game: Kentucky 20, No. 19 Wisconsin 19, 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl

The plot: Marc Logan scored two touchdowns and Joey Worley tied the UK school-record with a 52-yard field-goal with more than nine minutes left that ultimately proved the game winner.

Marc Logan in UK uniform.JPG
Marc Logan scored two touchdowns to help Kentucky upset No. 19 Wisconsin 20-19 in the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Why the game mattered: Gave Kentucky (9-3) its fifth all-time bowl victory (in seven tries to that point) and only its fifth nine-win season (to that point) since World War II.

Lexington newspaper headline: UK fights back to win Fame: Worley hits FG to beat Wisconsin

UK coach: Jerry Claiborne

16

The game: Kentucky 10, Tennessee 7, 2011 regular season

The plot: With no scholarship quarterback healthy enough to play, UK used wide receiver Matt Roark at QB. Running the read option from the pistol formation, Roark rushed for 124 yards and directed Kentucky to one of its most unlikely — and sweetest — wins ever.

Matt Roark carried off vs UT.JPG
Matt Roark (3) was carried off the field after he quarterbacked Kentucky to the 10-7 victory over Tennessee in 2011 that snapped a 26-game UK losing streak vs. UT. Lexington

Why the game mattered: Stopped an embarrassing 26-game UK losing streak vs. UT.

Lexington newspaper headline: Rocky topped: Streak-ending win was a senior moment that will never get old

UK coach: Joker Phillips

15

The game: Kentucky 40, No. 9 Louisville 34, 2007 regular season

The plot: With UK down 34-33, Andre Woodson hit Steve Johnson with a 57-yard touchdown bomb with 28 seconds left to win the game.

Why the game mattered: Kentucky won what is still the most-hyped game in the modern history of the Governor’s Cup rivalry. It was UK’s first win over a top 10-ranked foe in 30 years.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats deep-6 U of L: Johnson’s 57-yard TD reception lifts Cats

UK coach: Rich Brooks

Steve Johnson winning TD vs U ofL 2007.JPG
Kentucky's Steve Johnson (13) was grabbed by Dicky Lyons Jr. after Johnson scored the winning touchdown in Kentucky's 40-34 victory over No. 9 Louisville in 2007.

14

The game: Kentucky 40, No. 20 Alabama 34, 1997 regular season

The plot: In overtime, UK safety Tremayne Martin forced an Alabama fumble that fellow defensive back Jeremy Bowie recovered. Tim Couch then hit Craig Yeast with a 26-yard, game-winning TD pass.

Why the game mattered: UK’s first victory over Alabama since 1922. The first overtime game played at Commonwealth Stadium. The first time celebrating Wildcats fans tore down the goalposts at Commonwealth.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats stun Alabama with 40-34 OT victory

UK coach: Hal Mumme

Craig Yeast beats Alabama.JPG
Kentucky's Craig Yeast (3) crossed the goal line with the winning touchdown in UK's 40-34 overtime upset of No. 20 Alabama in 1997. GREG PERRY LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

13

The game: Kentucky 21, No. 19 North Carolina 0, 1976 Peach Bowl

The plot: Before a UK-oriented crowd of 54,132 in Atlanta, fullback Rod Stewart ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns. A Mike Martin-led Kentucky defense intercepted three passes, set up UK’s first score with a fumble recovery and recorded its third shutout in its past four games.

Curci Peach Bowl anniversary.JPG
Former Kentucky coach Fran Curci got a lift from members of his 1976 Peach Bowl championship team when they were introduced at Commonwealth Stadium in 2006. MARK CORNELISON Lexington Herald-Leader

Why the game mattered: A victory in Kentucky’s first bowl appearance since the 1952 Cotton Bowl.

Lexington newspaper headline: Cats win Peach Bowl: Record crowd sees UK whip N. Carolina 21-0

UK coach: Fran Curci

12

The game: No. 13 Kentucky 27, Tennessee 21, 1953 regular season

The plot: UK’s Harry Kirk blocked a Tennessee punt and that set up fullback Ralph Paolone for a 23-yard, game-winning touchdown run.

Why the game mattered: It was the first victory over the Volunteers for eighth-year UK head man Bear Bryant (0-5-2 vs. UT entering the game) and Kentucky’s first win vs. Tennessee under any coach since 1935. It also turned out to be Bryant’s final game as Wildcats head man.

Lexington newspaper headline: Wildcats bury Tennessee jinx with 27-21 victory

UK coach: Bear Bryant

Bear Bryant vs Tennessee.JPG
Bear Bryant (foreground in suit) on the Kentucky sideline during UK's 6-0 loss to Tennessee in 1949. It took Bryant eight tries as Wildcats head man before he finally got a victory over the Volunteers, 27-21 in 1953.

11

The game: No. 7 Kentucky 21, Tennessee 17, 1977 regular season

The plot: Trying to complete a 10-1 regular season, UK trailed underdog UT 17-14 in the fourth quarter. With an injured shoulder preventing Kentucky quarterback Derrick Ramsey from passing, UK backup QB Mike Deaton came off the bench and hit Felix Wilson with a 36-yard bomb that ignited Kentucky’s game-winning touchdown drive. Kelly Kirchbaum recovered a UT fumble at the Wildcats’ 23-yard line with 55 seconds left to secure victory.

Art Still with Wildcat mascot.JPG
The Wildcat mascot greeted UK’s Art Still as the 6-foot-7 defensive end took the field against Tennessee before his final college game. Kentucky won the 1977 regular-season finale over UT 21-17 to finish with a 10-1 record. Herald-Leader

Why the game mattered: Kentucky finished an undefeated SEC season (6-0) for the first (and still only) time while also clinching what was then only UK’s second 10-win season.

Lexington newspaper headline: 10-1! Cats edge Vols, 21-17

UK coach: Fran Curci

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

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About this series

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. Victories 50 through 41, 40-31 and 30-21 were published online and in print earlier this week. Watch for Nos. 10-1 online Friday and in Sunday’s print edition.

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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