Only five teams in the SEC will be making at least their fourth straight trip to a bowl game this season, and Kentucky (7-5, 3-5) is one of them. The other four are Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. Some pretty good company there for the Wildcats, huh?
It was another solid season for Rich Brooks & Co., but could have been a whole lot better if Kentucky could have punched the ball in for a touchdown at the end of regulation against Tennessee. The Wildcats couldn’t and were beaten in overtime by the Vols -- again.
Kentucky has lost 25 consecutive games to Tennessee, the longest active losing streak in the country involving teams that play every year.
Still, there was plenty of cheery news in the Bluegrass this season, notably historic wins over Auburn and Georgia. It was the first time in 43 years that the Wildcats had won at Auburn and the first time in 32 years that they had won at Georgia.
Throwing the football was a struggle at the end of the season after true freshman Morgan Newton took over for the injured Mike Hartline at quarterback. The Wildcats had to deal with several injuries throughout the season to key players. In addition to Hartline, star cornerback Trevard Lindley missed four games with an ankle sprain.
Offensive MVP: Randall Cobb, QB/WR. He was easily the most versatile player in the league, scoring touchdowns running, receiving and returning a punt. Cobb’s 15 touchdowns came with him playing quarterback in the Wildcat formation, and he also lined up at receiver as well as returning kickoffs and punts. He had more than 300 yards in all four categories.
Defensive MVP: Sam Maxwell, LB. Defensive tackle Corey Peters had a terrific senior season, but Maxwell gets the nod based on his versatility. He was second on the team with 80 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, while leading the team with six interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Turning point: The Wildcats looked like they were in trouble heading into that Auburn game on Oct. 17. They’d lost three in a row, and a fourth straight bowl appearance looked like it might be slipping away. But Cobb came up big, and Kentucky’s defense held Auburn scoreless in the second half for a 21-14 win that changed the complexion of the Wildcats’ season.
What’s next: The immediate goal is to win a fourth straight bowl game, this time against Clemson in the Music City Bowl. That would also be a first for Kentucky. On down the road, the Wildcats have a lot of key players to replace on defense next season, and they also have to get their quarterback situation settled. Brooks has deflected any talk about this possibly being his final season. If it is, he can walk away knowing he’s done an outstanding job in getting this program back to respectability.