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What is the Best Kentucky Football Play of the 21st Century?


It is still bracket season here at KSR. We had the NBA Jam bracket, then the best nickname, and now we’re looking back at the BBN’s favorite play from the football field and basketball court.

First, we are going to run through the 16 best football plays from the turn of the century.

Some of you may be questioning, why only 16? Why the 21st century?

First and foremost, keeping the field at 16 limits the brackets to four weeks. Two brackets – four weeks each – should put us at ending the brackets around the same time the NBA playoffs return. Secondly, in order to make the bracket, each play has to be on the internet somewhere. Unfortunately, Couch to Yeast won’t make the list, but we found keeping it to the last 20 years will suffice.

Let’s get it going.

(1) Stevie got Loose (2007) vs (16) Javess Blue circus catch (2014)

What is there to say about this play? ‘Stevie Got Loose’ is a play that will remain ingrained into the memories of Kentucky football fans forever. Just three games into a 2007 season that also saw the Cats topple top-ranked LSU and a Music City Bowl victory over Bobby Bowden and Florida State, Kentucky started its fun run with a victory over Steve Kragthorpe’s Louisville Cardinals.

The Cardinals were National Championship hopefuls ahead of the 2007 season, and a historic Kentucky senior class that included Andre Woodson, Stevie Johnson, Keenan Burton, Rafael Little, Jacob Tamme and Wesley Woodyard had never beaten the Cardinals. As a matter of fact, Andre Woodson was 0-7 against Louisville’s Brian Brohm dating back to high school.

But, with one breakaway route on the sideline, the Cats kicked off their memorable 2007 season with this win over Louisville.

Riding high after a 4-1 start to the 2014 season and Mark Stoops’ signature win over South Carolina, Kentucky looked to be ahead of schedule when they took on Louisianna Monroe in 2014. It felt like a throwaway game on an overcast day in Lexington, and for all intents and purposes, that’s what it was.

But on their way to the 5-1 start, Kentucky’s Javess Blue hauled in a memorable circus catch en route to a Wildcat victory.


What’s the Better Play?

1. Stevie Got Loose (2007)
16. Javess Blue’s Circus Catch (2014)
Created with QuizMaker

(2) Stevie Johnson Touchdown/ 4th & 2 (2007) vs (15) Boom Williams overtime touchdown in the Swamp (2014)

Stevie got loose or Stevie in the back of the end zone? Pick your poison.

Those two plays by Kentucky’s number one receiver in 2007 will hold legendary status in the Bluegrass forever, the true 1A and 1B of Kentucky football plays since the turn of the century. Kentucky was off to its best start in over four decades: 5-1, ranked seventeenth in the nation. One day after Billy Gillespie was introduced at Big Blue Madness, all eyes were on Lexington when the top-ranked LSU Tigers came marching into Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since the Bluegrass Miracle.

In dramatic, three-overtime fashion, Andre Woodson found Stevie Johnson in the back of the end zone to put the Cats up by six, but Kentucky would go on to miss the mandatory two-point conversion. Once again, it felt like Kentucky’s signature moment would slip through the fingertips once again.

Three plays later, Verne Lunquist didn’t think LSU’s Charles Scott got two yards.

Had Kentucky beaten Florida in 2014, this play might become one of the best plays in Kentucky football history. However, since the officials could not keep an eye on the game clock, this play instead becomes a footnote in a long 31-year streak. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that streak anymore, which allows us to look at this improbable Boom Williams touchdown with some fondness.

Seemingly out of nowhere, it felt like Kentucky was going to steal one in the Swamp in 2014. Kentucky gritted their way into overtime and Boom Williams kicked off OT with this nothing-into-something touchdown. Kentucky had all of the momentum in the world and when Boom crossed that pylon, it was a euphoric moment to be a Kentucky football fan.


What’s the Better Play?

2. Stevie in the Back of the End Zone/ 4th & 2 (2007)
15. Boom Williams OT Touchdown (2014)
Created with QuizMaker

(3) Lamar Fumble/ Austin MacGinnis winner (2016) vs (14) Jenkins Liberty Bowl stiff arm (2008)

Did you see him pose? Did you see him fumble?

After becoming Bowl Eligible in 2016 – which was an accomplishment in and of itself –  Kentucky had one last game against the 11th-ranked Louisville Cardinals and Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. For the first time in two years, Kentucky’s postseason hopes didn’t hinge on this game against Louisville. That alone was fun. But once things kicked off at Cardinal Stadium, it was evident the Cats came to play.

There are several plays to choose from this game, don’t get me wrong, but these two are iconic. Louisville’s prolific offense was in field goal range and with Lamar Jackson running the show, points were almost inevitable. You know what happens next.

It’s not a regular occurrence that Kentucky goes to three straight Bowl games, let alone wins three straight Bowl games. In 2008, Kentucky had that chance against East Carolina. The game was pretty weird in the sense that both offenses struggled throughout the game and Kentucky’s special teams play was less than par. Yet, a David Jones kick return put Kentucky right back in the game to open the second half. It was strange.

With 3:19 left and ECU trying to milk their way down the field for the final score, Ventrell Jenkins picks up a fumble and hits a nasty stiff-arm to put the Cats up six en route to Kentucky’s third straight bowl victory.

What’s the Better Play?

3. Lamar Fumble/ MacGinnis Kick (2016)
14. Jenkins’ Liberty Bowl Stiff Arm (2008)
Created with QuizMaker

(4) Benny Snell’s Record-Breaking touchdown (2019) vs (13) Lorenzen’s No-look Pass (2002)

It has become a common theme in college for football for players to sit out their final collegiate game, which is understandable. In the weeks leading up to Kentucky’s 2019 bowl game, questions surrounding Benny Snell began swirling. Would he go to the draft, and if he did, would he play in the Citrus Bowl first?

Snell Yeah. He even told reporters he wanted to win this more than any game he’s ever played in during his football career.

Needing 107 yards to break the school’s all-time rushing record held by Sonny Collins, he was primed to take over. Late in the third quarter, Benny Snell just needed five more yards to become the record holder. After Lynn Bowden went for 54 yards putting Kentucky on Penn State’s 12-yard line, the whole place knew No. 26 was getting the ball.

Chants of “Benny! Benny! Benny!” filled Camping World Stadium and on first-and-ten from the 12-yard line, Benny took it right up the middle for his 48th career touchdown as Wildcat. The perfect way to break the record en route to the culmination of Kentucky’s historic ten-win season.

What would this list be without a play from the Hefty Lefty? Of course, there are plenty of plays to choose from when it comes to Lorenzen’s impressive career, so why not pick the most ridiculous.

I’m not going to front, I was too young to witness this play. It’s been 18 years, and I still can’t believe he pulled off this overhead pass.

What’s the Better Play?

4. Benny Snell Breaks Record at Citrus Bowl (2019)
13. JLo’s No-look Pass (2002)
Created with QuizMaker

(5) Bowden’s Punt Return/ CJ Conrad’s game-winner (2018) vs (12) Derek Abney ties return record (2003)

Kentucky was ranked No. 12 in the nation ahead of its showdown against Missouri. A win against the Tigers would guarantee Kentucky a one-on-one matchup with Georgia for the SEC East the following week.

Missouri’s win probability sat at 96.5 percent, with Kentucky trailing 14-3 with five minutes and some change left. Needing a spark, Lynn Bowden decided to tell Coach Stoops and Dean Hood that he wanted to return the punt.

Mark Stoops said the conversation when about like this, “He was like, ‘Coach,’ and I’m like, ‘Go, go do it, man.’ What do we got to lose at that point? ‘Go, go do your thing.’”

Then, Lynn Bodwen did his thing.

This put Kentucky right back in the game with an energized defense that had forced six straight three-and-outs on the other side. There was now a glimpse of hope for a final drive. Kentucky worked the ball deep into Missouri territory.

Ten yards to go in four seconds. A little too far for a Benny Snell punch in and a little too squeezed to run some elaborate route pattern. Kentucky just had to throw it up to the tall guys and hope for the best, so they called on the tallest guy they had; former Iowa basketball player Ahmad Wagner, who hadn’t played a snap all season.

Kentucky ran a fade to the back corner of the end zone and Wagner made a spectacular catch over the Tiger defender, but it was out of bounds. Gut punch.

Then, out of nowhere a flag flies in. Pass interference on Missouri.

One more shot for Kentucky – this time, the ball was on the two. It was almost a certainty Benny Snell would get it and fight for those two-yards. In fact, that was almost the play call. But tight end CJ Conrad wanted the ball.

With Missouri in an all-out blitz, CJ Conrad ran an out-route that will live forever in Kentucky history.

Derek Abney had one hell of a career in the blue and white.

The one play that defines it all? His explosive return to tie the school’s return record en route to a victory over Mississippi State.


What’s the Better Play?

5. Missouri Miracle (2018)
12. Derek Abney’s ties Return Record (2003)
Created with Quiz Maker

(6) Bud Dupree’s Pick Six (2014) vs (11) Stephen Johnson flies over Rocky Top (2017)

Kentucky had only beaten Steve Spurrier one time ahead of this game against South Carolina. Most people remember this as the JoJo Kemp game, and I can assure you there are a handful of plays to pick from this game, Mark Stoops’ first signature victory as a head coach.

Of course, we had to go with the one that sealed it. With the game tied at 38 and an electric Commonwealth Stadium on edge, Mike Douglass tipped the ball up in the air and into the hands of Bud Dupree. I’m still convinced this was the loudest Commonwealth Stadium has ever been. What a night.

Everyone hates Tennessee, and that’s just how it is. However, Kentucky fans had only seen one victory against the Vols in thirty-some-odd years. The Cats needed to beat Butch Jones’ dumpster fire Tennessee team.

Kentucky was holding onto a one-point lead early in the second half when quarterback Stephen Johnson went down with a shoulder injury. It was not unusual to see Johnson get banged up here and there, but it was alarming to see him go into the locker room for evaluations. Two plays later, Drew Barker fumbled the ball. It was time to panic. The Big Blue Nation knew the Cats needed Stephen Johnson in order to beat the Vols.

Minutes later, a hushed Kroger Field roared into cheers as No. 15 sprinted out of the locker room and back onto the sideline, ready to help the Cats overcome a 23-21 deficit.

Johnson marched the Cats down the field. With the goal line in reach, the quarterback scrambled for a 17-yard run. He threw a stiff-arm, leaped into the air, and willed his body over the goal line onto his injured shoulder. Regardless of his injury, he put it all on the line in the name of victory.

Johnson put his body on the line for a win with one play that would come to define his career as a Wildcat. KSR’s photographer Dr. Mike snapped the pictures to prove it.


What’s the Better Play?

6. Bud Dupree’s Pick Six (2014)
11. Stephen Johnson Soars Over Rocky Top (2017)
Created with Quiz Maker

(7) Kentucky Ends the Streak (2018) vs (10) MacGinnis Saves the Stoops era (2016)

Florida was down five from their own six-yard line with 29 seconds left. The probability of the Gators winning was low, but after 31 consecutive years of heartbreak, the BBN couldn’t watch. Franks hit his guy for a pick up of 19 yards to start the drive, and the whole fanbase got a little uneasy.

Then, with nine seconds left, Franks tried to take one more shot. Josh Allen didn’t let him, and Davonte Robinson scooped it up and put it end the end zone. Despite some late-game uncertainty, this was the perfect cap to a long, 31-year drought.

It was a rough start to the 2016 season for Mark Stoops. After dropping the home opener and getting blown out by Florida in the Swamp, Stoops was on the hottest seat in all of college football. But, with newfound freshman running back Benny Snell emerging and Stephen Johnson playing well, maybe Kentucky could salvage the season after all.

Sitting at 3-3 with a bowl game and Stoops’ career hanging in the balance, it was all or nothing for the Cats.

Down by one, Austin MacGinnis had one kick to save the game and – we didn’t really know it at the time – ultimately the Stoops era. After MacGinnis missed his first attempt from 28-yards, Stoops trotted him out there to sink three more crucial field goals (46, 32, 32) to keep Kentucky in it.

Then, he set up from 51-yards out.


What’s the Better Play?

7. Kentucky Ends the Streak (2018)
10. Austin MacGinnis Saves the Stoops Era (2016)
Created with QuizMaker

(8) Lynn Bowden’s Belk Bowl-winner (2019) vs (9) Hartline Finds Cobb to beat Spurrier and USC (2010)

It was truly the perfect end to a rocky season for the Wildcats. After exhausting all their options at quarterback, halfway through the season Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran would turn to wide receiver Lynn Bowden to finish out the season.

Bowden would lead the Cats to five wins at quarterback, primarily winning games with his own two legs. However, at the Belk Bowl, Bowden would deliver the final punch unexpectedly through the air.

Ahead of this 2010 matchup with the Gamecocks, Kentucky had never beaten Steve Spurrier. The tenth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks marched into Lexington after toppling Alabama and the cats were on a three-game skid to open SEC play. South Carolina gained control early held an 18-point lead in the second half.

Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline had different plans for their last season in the blue and white. Needing one last signature moment, the duo clawed their way back within five points of South Carolina. On 4th &7, in improbable fashion, Hartline found Cobb in the back of the end zone, creating the biggest highlight from the Joker Phillips era.


What’s the Best Play?

8. Lynn Bowden’s Walk-off Win (2019)
9. Hartline Finds Cobb to Beat Spurrier (2010)
Created with Quiz Maker

Check back next week for the second round!

Article written by Brent Wainscott

Twitter: @BrentWainscott_

16 Comments for What is the Best Kentucky Football Play of the 21st Century?

  1. ukkatzfan
    7:24 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

    Not Stevie got loose. Number one all time is Stevie can’t believe this sh##. lol

  2. Wildfelinebeeline
    8:28 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

    Bowden telling the lady reporter “We don’t say that name around here!” when she said the word Louisville!

  3. katmandue2you
    9:31 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

    One of the greatest individual plays has to be Dicky Lyons Jr’s TD catch in the back of the end zone at Miss State

    • SuperTroy18
      10:06 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

      Absolutely. What an unreal play.

  4. ClutchCargo
    9:51 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

    I’m partial to Braxton Kelley’s game-winning 4th down stop vs LSU in 2007.

  5. BBN4LIFE03
    11:55 pm June 14, 2020 Permalink

    Ahmad Wagner TD catch against Florida???

    • mashburnfan1
      1:16 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

      That was sweeeeeeet.

  6. dcforuk
    12:20 am June 15, 2020 Permalink

    Yes and Yes and Yes and Yes and Yes and Yes and Yes and Yes

  7. beckham14
    12:52 am June 15, 2020 Permalink

    How about one of the unsung heroes in some of the plays leading up to the big scores………David Bouvier……..little man needs a little love!

  8. chardun20
    1:03 am June 15, 2020 Permalink

    MacGinnis kick that save Stoops job, MacGinnis misses, likely Stoops fried and his recruits leave and UK ? likely set back about 5 more years.

    • mashburnfan1
      1:18 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

      Would say this was most important play. Could argue other were, as they are asking, best plays but if that kick misses and they do fire Stoops we would be 2-10 each year.

    • ClutchCargo
      2:26 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

      That was a very big make. But if it is indeed true that Stoops’ job hung on making that FG, then Mitch should have been the one on the hot seat.

    • ClutchCargo
      2:30 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

      ^ By that I mean… you hired Joker, who single-handedly dismantled what Rich Brooks had started, then took a chance on Stoops and defended him to the death for a few years, only to have it come down to one game when you know building the program is a process? And then there’s the BCG fiasco.

  9. Ez21
    7:00 am June 15, 2020 Permalink

    Stevie wasn’t the no 1 receiver. Keenan Burton was.

  10. Clyde X
    2:41 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

    Watching Andre and Big Play Stevie J beat Louisville was about the most fun I ever had at Commonwealth Stadium.

  11. Duff86
    10:59 pm June 15, 2020 Permalink

    How bout Josh Allen fumble recovery and return for TD against A&M. Came up with that miracle when we needed it bad.