Updated: Jan 13
Months of being tested and pushed to their limits, has led the Kentucky Wildcats to breaking through and winning the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
With the worries of possibly not even having a season due to worries of the covid outbreak, Kentucky managed to put in the fight to keep this team healthy all season long and complete the entire schedule. That was, an ALL-SEC schedule.
I'm sure every program across college football had their fair shares of problems and difficulties going throughout this season, but I'm confident in saying that this Kentucky team is right up their towards the top with the amount of stuff they've had on their plates this season. First with the medical injury suffered from Chris Oats, which sidelined him for the entire season and will likely continue throughout this offseason as well. Then shortly after, Kentucky lost their Offensive Line Coach John Schlarman, who passed away after battling cancer for many years. At a point of the season when this team couldn't have felt more defeated (off the field), with these two awful events happening while trying to manage a covid protocoled filled season, including many injuries that were piling up on the roster, this team turned around and beat Tennessee for the first time in over a quarter century. Then, they faced Alabama, Florida, and Georgia all within four weeks, facing the cream of the crop of the Southeastern Conference.
To add to that, moments after the final regular season game versus South Carolina, Kentucky fired their Offensive Coordinator, Eddie Gran, and their Quarterbacks Coach, Darin Hinshaw. This team had just finished a bruise-felt season full of discouragement, and many questions, so many would've assumed that some of the players might just not have any gas left in the tank to keep going on. After a few days of thinking and resting, Kentucky announced they would accept a bowl bid. "My guys are 100% in" said Coach Stoops. The following week, they went through two covid testings and hit the planes to take off to their fifth straight bowl game, looking to win their third in a row.
Indeed they did. Kentucky defeated NC State in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, 23-21, to finish the season at 5-6 and a lot of confidence going into the offseason.
Kentucky is now 11-9 all-time in bowl games, and 3-2 under Mark Stoops.