Do strong starts end in big finishes for Kentucky football?


As I wrote in my Thursday column, this is the exact spot where Kentucky stopped winning games last season. After a 5-1 start, UK finished 5-7. Now the Cats are 4-2 heading to Mississippi State on Saturday. So how have previous Kentucky teams finished after a similar start?

If you go back over the past 20 years, six times UK was 4-2 or better after six games. The Cats reached bowl games four of those six years. Probation kept Kentucky out of a bowl one of those seasons.

Last year was the only time in the past 20 seasons when Kentucky did not make a bowl after having at least four wins through the season’s first six games.

Here’s a review:

1998: Kentucky was 4-2 after a 33-28 win over South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium. That was an 11-game regular season, and the Cats ended up 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. The season’s glow was dampened by the tragic death of defensive lineman Artie Steinmetz in an automobile accident that involved starting center Jason Watts, who was driving. The accident happened the day after UK beat Vanderbilt 55-17. Six days later, the Cats lot 59-21 at Tennessee. Kentucky then lost to Penn State 26-14 in the Outback Bowl.

1999: UK was 4-2 after winning 30-10 at South Carolina. Again, an 11-game regular season. The Cats beat LSU 31-5 the next week to go 5-2, but they won just one more game the rest of the way: a 19-17 victory at Vanderbilt. Hal Mumme’s team did reach its second straight bowl game. It lost 20-13 to Syracuse in the Music City Bowl.

2002: In his second and final year as head coach, Guy Morriss led the Cats to a 4-2 start. Kentucky went 3-3 the rest of the way, winning at Arkansas, at Mississippi State and at home against Vanderbilt. The Cats lost at home to Georgia and LSU before being blanked 24-0 at Tennessee in the season finale. Probation kept UK from a bowl game. A short time later, Morriss left Lexington to become the head coach at Baylor.

2007: Rich Brooks team started the season 5-0 before falling 38-23 in a Thursday night game at South Carolina. The Cats went 2-4 the rest of the regular season, but one of the wins was over No. 1-ranked LSU, 43-37 in overtime. LSU would go on to win the national championship that season. UK ended up beating Florida State 35-28 in the Music City Bowl.

2008: UK started the season with four straight wins before losses to Alabama and South Carolina dropped the Cats to 4-2. UK went 2-4 the remainder of the regular season, beating Arkansas at home and Mississippi State on the road. The Cats ended up with a winning 7-6 season thanks to a 25-19 win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.

2014: A 48-14 win over UL-Monroe improved Kentucky’s record to 5-1 on Oct. 11. Alas, the Cats didn’t win another game. Losses to LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville finished the season.

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