Stoops, Cats Looking Forward to Gator Bowl, Facing Clemson

Stoops, Cats Looking Forward to Gator Bowl, Facing Clemson

by Tim Letcher

After beating No. 9 Louisville in the season finale, Kentucky earned a bid to the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 29 in Jacksonville. There, the Cats will meet one of the top football programs over the last decade.

No. 22 Clemson is Kentucky’s bowl opponent. The Tigers have had quite a run of success over the past decade plus. Clemson had notched double-digit win totals over the last 12 seasons, a run that will end this year (the Tigers are 8-4). Coach Dabo Swinney has won eight Atlantic Coast Conference titles and two national championships. Clemson took home the title in 2016 and again in 2018.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has plenty of respect for Swinney and the Clemson program.

“Very excited about the bowl game. Such a quality opponent. It’s going to be a great game,” Stoops said. “To play Clemson. I have to recognize Coach Swinney. The model of consistency. Their team is very balanced this year. Typical Clemson team. Very physical. It will be a great game.”

As far as his own team, Stoops was quite pleased with how his team finished the season, knocking off the Cardinals in the Derby City.

“Proud of our team, the way we finished. We needed that game, we needed to go play well against Louisville, a Top 10 team,” Stoops said. “There’s been some ups and downs through this season. I like this football team. They’ve stayed with it all year. Things haven’t always been pretty. Like most teams, there’s some ups and some downs but I like the way they fought and hung tough and found a way to win and bring the Governor’s Cup back to Lexington.”

Stoops announced that he expects his team to have almost the entire roster competing in the bowl game. One possible exception is leading rusher Ray Davis. However, Stoops expects others who have entered the transfer portal or declared for the NFL Draft to still play in the Gator Bowl.

The UK head coach has always thought that bowl preparation and the bowl game itself are very important. This year is no different, according to Stoops.

“It would be very important. To get the invite to this bowl game and to play Clemson means a lot,” Stoops said. “To play a team the caliber of Clemson and try to go get a victory, we’ll invest a lot into it.”

The game will also be a chance for the Cats to finish the season by beating consecutive ranked teams from the ACC.

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