Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Clemson (Gator Bowl)

Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Clemson (Gator Bowl)

Info to Know

Kentucky vs. Clemson | When: Fri., Dec. 29, 12 p.m. ET | Where: Everbank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla. | TV: ESPN | Radio: UK Sports Network


Kentucky closes its 2023 season on Friday, facing No. 22 Clemson in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (ESPN, Noon ET).

The Cats finished the regular season with a 38-31 upset over No. 9 Louisville at the Derby City. In that win, the fifth in a row for the Cats over the Cards, UK quarterback Devin Leary passed for three touchdowns and running back Ray Davis scored three times. UK got another touchdown when Barion Brown returned a kickoff 100 yards to the house.

Now, Kentucky faces Clemson, which finished 8-4 in the regular season. The Tigers, who won national championships in 2016 and 2018, are led by quarterback Cade Klubnik and running backs Phil Mafah and Will Shipley.

Clemson and Kentucky have met 13 times with Kentucky winning eight of those contests. The most recent game between the teams came in 2009 when the Tigers beat the Cats 21-13 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

Cat Scratches: Kentucky Defense Readying for Balanced Clemson Offense

Playing defense against a team that does multiple things well can be difficult. That’s the task that the Kentucky defense will have when facing No. 22 Clemson in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 29 in Jacksonville.

The Tigers are the definition of balance. They rush for 180 yards per game and pass for 225 yards per contest. They have run the ball 485 times this year and have thrown the ball 433 times.

Clemson has impressed Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White.

“It’s an offense that understands what they want to do. They have really talented running backs. It’s a really good offense. The two running backs are really, really talented players. Their ability to get downhill, their ability in the passing game. The (offensive) linemen work together well. Then they spread the ball out more horizontally, but when they need to, they can push it vertical.”

The two running backs that White spoke about are juniors Phil Mafah and Will Shipley. Mafah has rushed for 894 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He has also caught 19 passes for 105 yards…Read More

Kentucky-Clemson Series

• Kentucky leads the all-time meetings with Clemson, 8-5, in a series that began in 1925.
• The Wildcats trail Clemson in bowl games, 2-1, which include matchups at the 1993 Peach Bowl, 2006 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl and 2009 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
• The two teams have gone back and forth over the last five meetings, with no team winning two-or-more since Clemson won two straight in 1981 and 1982.
• In their most recent matchup, the Tigers defeated the Wildcats, 21-13, in the 2009 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
• The matchup before that, the Wildcats defeated the Tigers, 28-20, in the 2006 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
• Kentucky’s biggest win was a 44-6 triumph (+38) in 1929, while Clemson’s biggest wins were a 21-3 victory (+18) in 1981 and a 24-6 (+18) victory in 1982.
• UK current quarterback and former NC State quarterback, Devin Leary, is 1-2 against Clemson, earning a win in 2021 and taking losses in 2019 and 2020.

Kentucky-Clemson Connections

• Kentucky has no players from Clemson on its roster.
• Kentucky has two players from South Carolina — kicker Chance Poore (Anderson) and defensive back Andru Phillips (Mauldin).
• Clemson has one player from the state of Kentucky on its roster in senior offensive lineman Walker Parks (Lexington, Kentucky; Frederick Douglass High School).
• Played and started in two games for Clemson in 2023 (limited to injury), while he has played 39 career games with 28 career starts.

By the Numbers

Bowl games played in by Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary during his college career, a number that will change on Friday

Consecutive bowl games for Kentucky, a school record and the 8th-longest streak in the country

Points scored by Kentucky in the 2019 Belk Bowl, the most points by UK in any of its bowl appearances

Rushing yards by Lynn Bowden Jr. in the 2019 Belk Bowl, the most rushing yards by any UK player in a bowl game

Passing yards by Andre Woodson in the 2007 Music City Bowl, the most passing yards by a UK player in a bowl game



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