Move over, Bear: Mark Stoops becomes winningest coach in Kentucky football history
Move over, Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Stoops, who is in his 10th season at UK, had to orchestrate a second-half comeback to notch win No. 61 and pass Bryant on the program's all-time leaderboard. The No. 20 Wildcats had a myriad of issues during the first half — from poor offensive line play to special teams miscues — and trailed the No. 12 Gators 16-13 at the intermission.
After halftime, however, Kentucky responded by holding Florida scoreless and establishing a ground attack. A 65-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Ole Miss transfer Keidron Smith was the difference-maker, leading Stoops' team to back-to-back wins against Florida for the first time since 1976-77.
Kentucky 26, Florida 16:3 takeaways as Wildcats' defense silences Anthony Richardson, No. 12 Gators
"I thought it was a thing of beauty," said Stoops, sopping wet from a postgame Gatorade bath, when asked about his team's second-half turnaround. "We overcome a lot of adversity. You don't do that unless you're an experienced, tough football team. We know we have that mentality. We know each and every week it's gonna be a challenge. We respect Florida, but we were ready to play."
When asked what breaking Bryant's record means to him, Stoops said, "Fortunate."
"A lot of great players, coaches have been through here," Stoops said. "To be able to persevere through this difficult conference, I have nothing but respect and appreciation."
Watch Stoops' postgame interview with ESPN's Katie George below:
Back in the visitors' locker room, tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow presented Stoops with the game ball from Saturday's victory.
"Coach Stoops came here in 2013, when this program was on the rocks," Marrow told the team, according to a video from UK Athletics. "He stayed here, and now he's the all-time leading winning coach at UK."
"It's honestly, it's on all the coaches and all the players," Stoops told his team. "None of us could do this without each other."
The longest-tenured coach in Kentucky history, Stoops will go for win No. 62 when the Wildcats kick off against Youngstown State at noon on Sept. 17 in Lexington.
Known for his dominance at the helm of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Bryant coached UK from 1946-53 before departing Lexington for Texas A&M. Bryant posted a 60-23 record leading the Wildcats.
Stoops and Bryant are the only head coaches to notch more than 50 wins during their tenures at Kentucky. Fran Curci, who ranks third on the program's leaderboard, recorded 46 wins between 1973-81.
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