When the Kentucky football team kicks off against Missouri on Saturday in a pivotal game for the Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference East historically you have to believe it will be an odd fight to the finish.
A win on Saturday not only would chalk up a conference win it would also put UK at 2-0 overall heading into Chattanooga the following week where a win would have them sitting 3-0. But lets not get ahead of ourselves and the Tigers just yet.
Checking the history books these two teams have played some wide-open high scoring and odd finishes games over the past decade.
Kentucky football and Missouri have a history of interesting matchups
Kentucky leads the overall series 7-4 with the two splitting games back in the 1960s. Move ahead to 2012 when the teams were placed in the same half of the realigned SEC when Mizzou joined.
The first three years it was all Mizzou with two lopsided wins 33-10, 48-17, and then 20-10 in 2015. From there Kentucky had the Tigers by the tail for five straight seasons by scores of 21-13, 35-21, 40-34, 15-14, and 29-7 in 2019.
Missouri halted that win streak last season in Columbia where they dominated the game in every facet except the scoreboard eventually winning just 20-10. The same identical score of their last win over the Wildcats.
The series got underway with Kentucky in the midst of a dreadful 2012 year. Following the 33-10 loss the Wildcats stood just 1-8 overall and 0-6 in SEC play. Kentucky fumbled the ball away 4 times in the game, only threw for 78 yards, and ran for 101. They could only convert three Missouri turnovers into 3 points. Jalen Whitlow as at quarterback and Raymond Sanders was the running back.
Later that month Mark Stoops was hired to replace Joker Phillips, who left Stoops a complete mess.
In 2013 it was equally as demoralizing as the Tigers came in ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes to tie Chase Daniel’s school record, with Dorial Green-Beckham snaring four of them and Missouri cruised past Kentucky 48-17 leaving UK (2-7, 0-5).
Ironically Whitlow threw for 233 yards and JoJo Kemp was the leading rusher with a whopping 45 yards. Kentucky had the ball 15 more minutes in the game and only turned it over once, but could not find the endzone.
The emergence of Patrick Towles
Year two of the Stoops era in 2014 saw the emergence of Patrick Towles and more wins. Towles (158 yards) and Mauk (164) went at it through the air while Stanley “Boom” Williams was doing it all over the field for UK. Mauk also ran over Kentucky on the ground for 75 rushing yards. Kentucky (5-4, 2-4) could start to see things turning around despite the loss.
That really came to fruition the following year when the teams met in late September with Mizzo ranked No. 25. It was an emotional and jubilant Commonwealth Stadium crowd including myself that watched Towles toss two touchdown passes that ended the Wildcats’ 18-game losing streak against ranked teams and hand the Tigers their first loss of the year.
Watching the clock tick down to zero and the celebration I remember thinking this just might be the game that puts this program back on the right track.
Stoops talked about the significance of the win afterward as ESPN reported.
“I’m very proud of the team. It’s just gratifying to win a game like that against such a quality opponent. There’s good and bad that happens, but you have to be able to overcome it and make the plays to win the game. We’re really starting to grow.”
That started a streak of 5 straight wins for UK over the Tigers and moving them up the SEC ladder.
Wildcats, Tigers tussle in some wild finishes
2016 saw the Boom and Benny (Snell) snow take center stage and torched Mizzou 35-21. It was historically the first time in 17 years UK had won 3 consecutive SEC contests.
Snell rushed 38 times for 192 yards and two scores, while Williams had 19 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown. That feat was a school record being the first time two running backs had rushed for at least 175 yards apiece in a conference game.
Fast forward to 2017 and a wild back-and-forth tilt that saw Austin MacGinnis connect on four field goals, including two in the fourth quarter, while Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell each had two touchdowns helping Kentucky stave off Missouri 40-34. Kentucky was now 5-1 on the year and 2-1 in the SEC.
Oh and what about the miracle win on the final play of the 2018 game where Terry Wilson hit CJ Conrad on the game’s final play for a 15-14 win as the No. 12 ranked Wildcats pulled out the win.
Kentucky’s offense didn’t score a touchdown in the first 60 minutes but a pass interference in the end zone by Missouri on what would have been the final play set up UK for one last shot from the 2 with no time left on the clock.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops raced on the field to celebrate with the team.
“I felt like I was going to have a heart attack,”
The 2019 season saw Lynn Bowden take over quarterbacking duties and in the rain that didn’t let up the entire game. The Kentucky junior rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns in the 29-7 win. The Wildcats didn’t give up any first-half points and their defense was tough only surrendering 24 points or less in 22 straight games.
Last year saw Missouri take back the series as Kentucky went to Columbia without its beloved offensive line coach John Schlarman who was battling cancer. It was the first game without him and UK just didn’t look the same in a 20-10 defeat.
The two teams will square off again on Saturday night at 7:30 pm and what oddities will be written in the chapter of this series? Kentucky is favored by 5.5 points, but you will have to wait to find out.