(image courtesy of 247Sports)
Another Kentucky football regular season has come and gone. This season was filled with great moments as well as some gut-wrenching moments. For many, 7-5 may not seem like an improvement but remember Kentucky is bowling for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009 and 2010. With that said, lets take a look back at the roller coaster ride of the 2017 season. We’ll get the worst moments out of the way first before ending on high note.
1. “Holding, offense number 68.” These words have stuck with the BBN since the moment the Florida game ended. I’m of course talking about the holding call on Nick Haynes that took Kentucky out of reasonable field goal position and would have presumably ended Kentucky’s 31 game losing streak to Florida. This certainly took the energy out of the fanbase and I don’t think everyone’s completely recovered. With the hire of Dan Mullen at Florida, beating the Gators will become even more difficult and this year may have been Kentucky’s best shot.
2. Like the Florida game, the Ole Miss game was another opportunity for Kentucky to do something it hasn’t done in a long time. Had the Cats won either the Florida or Ole Miss game, Kentucky would have been playing for the SEC east in Athens because Auburn had beat the Dawgs the previous week. This of course didn’t happen because of D.K. Metcalf. The Ole Miss receiver made an unbelievable catch in the back of the end zone over Lonnie Johnson. This ended Kentucky’s chances at competing for the east and sucked the energy out of the fanbase once again.
3. The Louisville game all together was hard to watch. From Jordan Jones and Denzil Ware losing their minds to poor play by everyone except Benny Snell. You never want to get blasted in rivalry game but it was clear Louisville didn’t forget about Kentucky’s 41-38 upset win at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the year prior. Kentucky couldn’t stop Lamar Jackson and Louisville’s spotty defense had arguably its best performance of the year. The only thing that didn’t go bad was that Louisville didn’t plant their flag at midfield which has suddenly become a thing.
1. Do you remember when Kentucky’s rush defense was towards the top of the SEC and the nation? Kentucky was playing South Carolina and needed to keep them out of the end zone. The Cats forced Will Muschamp to go for it on 4th & Goal at the one yard line. Kentucky’s D-Line held up and kept the Gamecocks from getting six in what was a great gang tackle. This was the moment where Kentucky pulled away and picked up its most impressive win of the season.
2. This one has nothing to do with the 2017 Wildcats. I couldn’t make this without recognizing the honoring of a trailblazer prior to the Eastern Michigan game. Nate Northington was honored for helping break the color barrier in the SEC and it was great for the fans, players, and the program. Northington made sure to honor Wilbur Hackett, Houston Hogg, and Greg Page who were a huge part in the breaking of the color barrier as well. Although this wasn’t about this team, it was a great moment honoring history.
3. The Missouri game was the first time the offense showed promise. Up to this point everybody scored on Missouri so some overlooked this but it finally gave the Cats some confidence heading into the bye week. Benny Snell had been struggling but he was able to shake off the rust and even had an acrobatic 71-yard touchdown run. Missouri was driving towards the end of the game but the defense (and a little help from the refs) held up. This win gave Kentucky a 5-1 record with positive energy heading into the bye week.
4. Prior to the game, Kentucky had only beaten Tennessee once in three decades. The first play of the game, Benny Snell fumbles and it’s recovered by the Vols. This was foreshadowing for the Cats as Kentucky fumbled four times and all four were recovered by Tennessee. The defense held strong and was able to hold Tennessee to field goals for the most part. Stephen Johnson would go down in the third quarter and all hope seemed lost. Johnson would proceed to run out of the locker room ready to go and he would later get a shot to lead Kentucky down the field to take the lead. Johnson did just that with at diving touchdown run (on his injured shoulder) and gave the Cats the win. The mixture of Johnson running out of the locker room and leading the team to victory was almost movie like.
5. The Vanderbilt game was Kentucky’s best all-around performance of the year. This game saw the Cats pick off Kyle Shurmur four times which was one more than Shurmur’s season total heading into the game. The best moment from this game was when Benny Snell and Garret “Juice” Johnson broke records. Snell became the first player in Kentucky history with back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons and became the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns at Kentucky. Juice reached the 2,000 yard mark for his career and is now the fourth leading receiver in Kentucky football history. Not only did Kentucky dominate this game, two Cats put their names in the record books.
There you have it, the 2017 season in a nutshell. Overall I’d consider it a success as Mark Stoops continues to build the program up. I’m sure everyone would like some situations back and do something different in those situations but at the end of the day, Kentucky has another winning season in the books. There’s still one more game to go with a bowl game on the horizon. As of now it’s looking like the Cats will be in the Music City Bowl playing Purdue or Iowa.
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