Dicky Lyons, Jr. and Steve Johnson celebrate win
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's back-to-back Music City Bowl championships for the Kentucky Wildcats, as they defeat the Florida State Seminoles 35-28 in front of a record Music City Bowl crowd of 68,661. Andre Woodson threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and was named Music City Bowl MVP for the second consecutive year to lead the Cats.
It had been fifty-five years since Kentucky won back-to-back bowl games in successive years, and now--they've done it again. It wasn't easy, but the seniors promise we'll see it again in the future. And Coach Brooks said for the program to progress, this isn't enough.
"It's going to continue," senior tight end Jacob Tamme said. "One of the biggest things that has changed about Kentucky football is that no matter the situation, no matter the score, no matter the down, we believe we are going to win the game. And you can't underestimate how important that is. Three, four five years ago, when we were struggling as a program, it was tough."
Rafael Little upended
Woodson broke Tim Couch's record for most touchdown passes in a single season with a 13-yard touchdown to Steve Johnson in the 2nd quarter, and added to that record with a 2-yard toss to Rafael Little in the 3rd quarter, and capped it with a second touchdown strike to Johnson in the 4th quarter. Woodson overcame a lot to become two-time Music City MVP, and much of the credit was directed toward him. Woodson believed the praise should not only be his, but shared--with his senior classmates, but also to others.
"As a senior class, we're all proud of what we've all done to turn the program around," Woodson said. "And everybody in the senior class will tell you that there are some guys that came before us that did not necessarily see the reward."
Winning back-to-back bowl games "means a lot to the program," according to senior linebacker Wesley Woodyard. "The seniors put in a lot of hard work to get where we are today. It means a lot to know that for the first game of next season, we have left the guys with a victory on their hands."
For Kentucky to build on these back-to-back bowl championships, and to completely turn around the program, Brooks believed this is just a start. "I think this is what, twenty-six or twewnty-seven straight bowls for Florida State? Turning the program around means we need to be in post season next year (too)."
The victory was filled with heroes. From Woodson's MVP performance to Rafael Little's 152 yards rushing, 50 yard receiving, or Steve Johnson's seven catch, 124 yard, two touchdown performance, plenty of candidates fit the bill. But perhaps the biggest hero was yet another senior, wide receiver Keenan Burton.
Burton began the week as "very doubtful" to play because of a knee injury that has plagued him much of the season. Not only did Burton start, but he played all game. "Keenan practiced about half a practice the second day we were here," Coach Brooks explained. "I'm amazed that he played as long and as effectively as he did."
"I wasn't sure before the game," Burton admitted. "I felt pretty good, but Coach (Brooks) told me I was starting, and to play as hard as I could and if I needed rest, he'd give me rest."
Indeed, the rest can come next year. For tonight, though, a back-to-back Music City Bowl championship begins a Happy New Year for all Wildcat fans.