LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the strength of Kentucky football’s best regular season in four decades, the Wildcats have earned the right to play on New Year’s Day. No. 14 UK has accepted a bid to play in the VRBO Citrus Bowl, where the Cats will take on No. 12 Penn State Jan. 1 in Orlando, Florida.
The game will kick off at 1 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando and will air on ABC. The Citrus Bowl is among the longest-running and tradition-rich bowls, with this year’s edition marking the 10th straight matchup of ranked opponents and the 30th ranked matchup in the last 31 years.
"We’re very pleased to earn another bowl bid and honored to receive an invitation from the VRBO Citrus Bowl,” said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops (pictured). “It will be exciting for us to play in this bowl for the first time. It will be a great challenge to play Penn State, an outstanding team with great tradition.”
This marks the third consecutive bowl appearance for the Wildcats under Stoops – tied for the second-longest streak in school history – and 18th overall. Kentucky has an all-time record of 8-9 in bowl games.
UK’s appearance in the Citrus Bowl is the first in school history. UK will also be competing in a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time since the 1998 season and the fourth time overall.
“This season has been a special one for Kentucky football and I am excited the hard work of our players and coaches and the dedication of our fans has been rewarded with a trip to the VRBO Citrus Bowl,” UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said. “To play on New Year’s Day in a bowl game of prestige of the Citrus Bowl is a milestone for our program and we are thankful for the opportunity to close out the season with what would be a significant victory. We ask our fans to honor this team and these seniors one last time by joining us in Orlando. They deserve the kind of support that the Big Blue Nation is so well known for.”
All Kentucky football season ticket holders and eligible K Fund donors that placed a Citrus Bowl request during the priority request period (Oct. 30 – Nov. 29) will receive tickets, and confirmation emails will be sent Sunday evening. Tickets ordered during the priority request period will be allocated into the best seat locations in Kentucky’s official allotment and assigned in order of K Fund priority point ranking later this week.
After holding tickets to fulfill all priority requests, remaining tickets in Kentucky’s official allotment will go on sale Monday, Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. ET, online at UKFootballTix.com or by calling (800) 928-2287, option 4. Remaining tickets in Kentucky’s allotment are located in the Plaza level corners and in the Terrace level between the 30-yard lines. Tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last. New this season, fans will be able to select specific seat locations upon purchase. For more information about purchasing Citrus Bowl tickets, visit UKFootballTix.com. Student ticket information for the Citrus Bowl will also be available on Sunday evening, online at UKFootballTix.com.
Kentucky will enter the Citrus Bowl with a record of 9-3, including 5-3 in Southeastern Conference play. Both marks are the best for the Wildcats since 1977. UK is the only team in the country to tie or improve its win total from the previous year in each of the last six seasons, which coincides with Stoops’ arrival in Lexington.
UK’s defense has established itself as one of the best units in America in 2018, ranking eighth nationally in scoring defense (16.3 points per game). Linebacker Josh Allen has been the standout among a group of senior leaders for the Wildcats, becoming a finalist for Walter Camp National Player of the Year, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Butkus Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy in the process. Allen is UK’s record holder for both career sacks and sacks in a season.
On offense, UK is led by All-America candidate Benny Snell Jr. The junior running back is among national and SEC leaders with 1,305 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Snell needs 107 yards to become UK’s all-time leading rusher, having already joined Herschel Walker as one of only two players in SEC history to rush for at least 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three seasons.
Penn State enters the matchup with Kentucky with a record of 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten) after closing the regular season with three straight victories. The Nittany Lions are led by senior Trace McSorley, the winningest quarterback in program history, and have now reached four straight bowl games under head coach James Franklin. UK last faced Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 1999, where Kentucky fell by a final score of 26-14. The Cats have a 2-3 record all time against Penn State.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught