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Why this win over Tennessee means so much

A loved one hugs Kentucky running back JuTahn McClain (17) after Kentucky defeated Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Photo via SEC

A loved one hugs Kentucky running back JuTahn McClain (17) after Kentucky defeated Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Photo via SEC

There are certain games that you’ll remember forever. For this Kentucky Football fan, it’s the 1997 win over Alabama, the 2007 wins over No. 1 LSU and Louisville, the 2011 win over Tennessee with Matt Roark at quarterback, Lamar doing the Heisman pose then fumbling in 2016, and the streak-busting dub in The Swamp in 2018. Kentucky’s 34-7 win over Tennessee is now on that list. Not only is it the Cats’ first win in Knoxville since 1984, it’s their most lopsided win over the Vols since 1935. For as crappy as 2020 has been, it at least gave us this.

The way it happened was just icing on the cake. None of us knew what to expect coming in. The Cats had yet to put together a complete performance, the offense and defense bouncing on a see-saw through three games. Although ranked No. 18, Tennessee looked vulnerable, but would inevitably bring out the worst in Kentucky, with Jarrett Guarantano doing as he usually does against the Cats and picking apart the defense. Instead, he threw two picks, which turned into 14 Kentucky points. Even though the offense struggled to get off the mat in the first half, the defense carried them through, notching four turnovers to make it ten takeways through six quarters. Yet, years of Volunteer beatdowns had us all fearing the worst heading in halftime, especially when Tennessee scored to make it 17-7.

This Kentucky team did not follow the old script. The defense forced a three-and-out and Terry Wilson, who faced criticism all week, led the Cats down the field, feeding Chris Rodriguez and throwing a touchdown pass to Allen Dailey to make it 24-7. Complaints about the offense dissipated as Kentucky maintained control and put the Vols on their heels, resulting in choruses of boos and an appearance from Tennessee’s third-string quarterback. As the seconds ticked down towards victory, you could feel the wall of fear, ten feet tall from years of heartbreaking losses, come crumbling down and unfettered joy peeking through. When the clock finally hit 0:00, if you’re like me, you probably just stared at the TV for a few seconds while realization sunk in.

Mandatory Credit: Calvin Mattheis-USA TODAY NETWORK

That’s because, when it comes to Tennessee, it’s always something. For as much progress as the program has made under Mark Stoops, the Vols still had something over the Cats, even in 2018 when Kentucky was clearly the superior team. After the Florida streak was snapped — arguably even before — Tennessee is undeniably the program that has lived in Kentucky’s head the most; that’s what made today’s methodical drubbing in a quiet Neyland Stadium so satisfying. Behind a stout defense and rumbling run game, the Cats exorcised yet another demon.

Adding to the emotions is one man in the middle of it all: John Schlarman. The former Kentucky lineman’s battle with cancer has been well-documented, and after one of the most difficult weeks he’s had, he still made the trip to Knoxville and got the game ball, a moment that will tug a tear from us all.


What happens from here? Due to a scheduling shift, Kentucky has Missouri next week and Georgia after that, setting up the program’s next big step on October 31 in Kroger Field. There were enough great moments in today’s game to make you dream a little bit.

But for now, I’m going to revel in this. It’s a break-out-the-bourbon type of win. It’s a call-your-family type of win. And, as annoyed as I was with my dad for taking my uncle to the ’97 win over Alabama instead of me, I was happy that he was able to witness today’s victory from his recliner in Danville. Every time I would get my hopes up that Kentucky would beat Tennessee growing up, he’d temper them with tales of sitting in a freezing cold Neyland Stadium watching the Cats lose. Losing to Tennessee is a trait ingrained in us all, so enjoy this moment. They don’t come around that often.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

15 Comments for Why this win over Tennessee means so much

  1. BigBlueFoo42777
    5:38 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    It was a big deal for us to beat them especially at tennesse but for what ever reason it didnt seem that way.

    • blueblood23
      11:42 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

      Are we allowed to ask ‘what if’ we could have held on to Mac Jones’ commitment? And what it could have meant for this years team? Or last years? ??

  2. UKinIN
    5:53 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    Let’s not overlook Missouri. Win that game then start thinking about Georgia.

    • dcforuk
      6:31 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

      Agreed! Give them 48 hours to enjoy AND celebrate this and then let it go and move on to Mizzou. But, enjoy these 48 hours. This was fun!

    • Miller45
      1:22 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

      Yes sir. I guarantee mizzou is downright sick of losing to Kentucky and will have no problem getting up for this game

  3. dcforuk
    6:29 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    Yo SoBlu? Where are you? I for one am glad Mark Stoops took over this program. He has more guts and courage to take over a culture and fanbase (that wants to believe) of unbelief. Will you negative Nancy’s get on the belief train or are you like SoBlu and actually Blu by the success? Let’s go!

  4. BigBluSoTru
    6:58 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    OMG great win im pumped i been saying we going to the SEC championship game we have arrived BBN this was the best win so far in all CFB we took down a CFP contender.

  5. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    10:35 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    We only won because I said we couldn’t. Also, because I didn’t watch the game live. You’re welcome Cat fans.

    • Cats N Pats
      1:15 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

      Good, then I expect you to do the same for the rest of the season. You are no “Cat_Fan”

  6. csnailnrun
    10:48 pm October 17, 2020 Permalink

    I’m more relieved than anything. C’mon, it’s puke orange and a shame it took us this long to grab a win. Keep up the hard work Stoops and Troops!

    • Miller45
      1:28 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

      We have lost to them in every way conceivable

  7. KY Snowbird
    9:04 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

    Great win to get back the Ol’ Bourbon Barrel!! (Is that still around??)
    Just like last week, the game was much closer than the score indicated. Like Watson’s INT at the goal line vs MSU, the back-to-back backbreaker INTs were the difference. Otherwise, the numbers show two extremely similar teams yesterday. My point is that there’s a LOT of improvement left in this team. And the Terry haters need to chill. He’s a very good, solid QB. He throws a good ball and is perhaps the best run threat in the SEC. I like my team.

  8. KY Snowbird
    9:08 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

    I guess I should have done the ol’ wiki before posting…it was a beer barrel and is no longer around after that car wreck in 98. Still, I bet UT fans like their brown liquor as much as we do…they just like that black label crap from Lynchburg. 😉

  9. Ryan Lemonds Toupee
    11:38 am October 18, 2020 Permalink

    That quick hit slant route will be the go-to play off the RPO rest of season

    • ClutchCargo
      12:23 pm October 18, 2020 Permalink

      Yep. Good luck stopping that and the run, unless you’re Alabama or Georgia.