Kentucky’s Mark Stoops gets raise, contract extended to 2031

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has signed an amended contract extension through June 2031 that in February will boost his base annual salary to $8.6 million plus incentives.

The 10th-year coach, who is earning $6.35 million this season, signed the new deal on Nov. 11, a day before the Wildcats fell 24-21 to Vanderbilt. It replaces the previous extension signed last December that ran through June 2028 and deletes the clause that automatically extended his contract by one year if Kentucky won seven games and by two years for 10 wins.

The deal increases Stoops’ buyout from $1.75 million to $4.5 million if he leaves the program before June 30, with decreases of $500,000 before June 30 each subsequent year.

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release dated Nov. 18 that was posted on the school’s website that the agreement had been in the works for more than a month and added that continuity was “more and more important in today’s landscape.”

Stoops said in the release that he wanted to affirm his commitment and added, “I’ve loved it here and am excited for our future.”

The revised contract includes bonuses for reaching College Football Playoff semifinal games ranging from $300,000 to $800,000 for winning the national championship.

Already Kentucky’s longest-tenured coach, Stoops (65-58) surpassed Paul “Bear” Bryant as its career wins leader with his 61st in a victory over Florida in September. The Wildcats began 4-0 and reached No. 7 in the AP Top 25 but have since lost five of seven, including Saturday’s 16-6 home defeat against top-ranked Georgia to finish 3-5 in Southeastern Conference play.

Kentucky closes the regular season on Saturday against rival Louisville before awaiting its school-record seventh consecutive bowl assignment.

No. 1 Georgia tops Kentucky, goes unbeaten in SEC again

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Between Kenny McIntosh and Jack Podlesny, top-ranked Georgia got all the important points it needed on a day where style points weren’t possible.

McIntosh rushed for a career-best 143 yards, including a crucial 9-yard score late in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs withstood Kentucky’s fourth-quarter rally Saturday for a 16-6 win and its second consecutive unbeaten season in the Southeastern Conference.

The Bulldogs (11-0, 8-0 SEC, No. 1 CFP) clinched the Eastern Division title last week and sought another perfect finish in league play. They came away as just the third SEC team since 1992 to post consecutive 8-0 league marks, following Alabama (2008-09) and Florida (1995-96).

Georgia’s success wasn’t easy in cold, windy conditions, and it settled for three Podlesny field goals before McIntosh’s TD provided a needed cushion.

“With these weather conditions, we’re going to play these kind of games like this,” coach Kirby Smart said. “But I’m really proud of when our guys’ backs are against the wall, how they come out fighting with what they do.

“Certainly, we could’ve played better, probably in the red area. They could have stopped some drives defensively; we gave them a couple of conversions on penalties. I have to give Kentucky a lot of credit for bouncing back and being a really physical football team.”

Georgia’s chance to pad the lead ended on downs at Kentucky’s 1. The Wildcats to made it interesting with a 99-yard drive that ended with Will Levis‘ 8-yard touchdown pass to Barion Brown. Levis’ two-point conversion pass failed, and the chance to make it a one-score game died when Matt Ruffalo’s field goal hooked left after a low, rolling snap.

Kentucky (6-5, 3-5) then turned it over on downs and lost for the fifth time in seven games.

McIntosh rushed a career-high 19 times with a 26-yarder for the Bulldogs, who outgained Kentucky 365-297 and 247-89 on the ground.

“It was real big,” McIntosh said of his TD. “We had been driving the ball the whole field, but we knew that we needed to score on that drive to come out strong and get the ball rolling on the ground. We had preached during halftime that we needed to go out there and start stronger and be physical on the line of scrimmage.”

The senior back’s previous best was 90 yards on 16 attempts against Florida last month.

“Kenny ran the ball really well tonight,” Smart added. “Probably could’ve had more, but he had to share with some other guys.”

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 13 of 19 for 116 yards with an interception.

Levis completed 20 of 31 for 206 yards with an interception for Kentucky, which dropped its 13th in row against Georgia.

The Wildcats had been picked to finish second behind Georgia in the East and were ranked as high as No. 7 in the AP Top 25 in late September before spiraling downward with painful division losses to South Carolina, No. 5 Tennessee and last week’s shocking 24-21 home loss to Vanderbilt that snapped the Commodores’ 26-game SEC losing streak.

‘DAWG DAY AFTERNOON

Georgia’s second-ranked scoring defense (11.6 points per game coming in) remained stingy in holding Kentucky to just 119 yards before halftime and scoreless through three quarters. Kentucky’s 99-yard TD drive after making a goal-line stand spoiled the Bulldogs’ shutout bid, but they limited the Wildcats to just 3 of 11 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It wasn’t pretty, but Georgia should maintain its perch atop the AP Top 25 and College Football Playoff rankings.

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia: Denied their usual offensive explosiveness by Kentucky’s stiff defense, the Bulldogs had to settle for whatever they could get. The numbers ended up decent, converting 6 of 12 third-down chances and edging the Wildcats in time of possession (30:02-29:58). Their stingy defense pitched a shutout for three quarters, highlighted by Kelee Ringo‘s end-zone interception of Levis, and held off Kentucky’s last-ditch attempts to make it close.

Kentucky: With nowhere to go but up after an all-around disastrous performance against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats did everything they needed to do in slowing down Georgia and coming up with a couple of critical defensive stops. They still faced a 16-point hole, though Levis did his part with his arm and feet to get them on the board against a bullish ‘Dawgs defense.

“After a tough loss a week ago, getting them motivated to compete at a high level (was our priority),” coach Mark Stoops said. “It took a lot of digging and soul-searching and the competitive nature of our players to reinvest and commit and to put in that kind of effort. We came up short, but the effort, the preparation was there.”

UP NEXT

Georgia faces in-state rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Kentucky hosts in-state rival Louisville on Saturday, seeking its fourth consecutive series victory.

Hyatt’s 2 TDs lead No. 3 Tennessee over No. 19 Kentucky 44-6

Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jalin Hyatt caught five passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 3 Tennessee to a 44-6 victory over No. 19 Kentucky on Saturday night.

Hyatt broke the school record for touchdown receptions in a season with 14 and set up the Volunteers (8-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) for their showdown with No. 1 Georgia next Saturday. Tennessee is off to its best start since winning the national championship in 1998.

“The first day I took this job, this is what you envision,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “You’re in the nuts and bolts and continue to grow. These guys wanted to stay (during the coaching transition).

The Wildcats (5-3, 2-3) struggled in the latest edition of the border rivalry. Will Levis, projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL draft, was intercepted three times – including two by Doneiko Slaughter, who moved from safety to cornerback to fill a void.

“(Slaughter) trained at corner,” Heupel said. “He did a great job early on. We weren’t healthy at that position.”

“You have to have the mentality you want to be great,” Slaughter said. “I like to be more in the box (at safety), but it’ll grow on me.”

Kentucky was 1 for 6 on third down in the first half and 2 of 13 for the game. Levis was 16 for 27 for 98 yards.

“(Tennessee) beat us in virtually every area,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “When the game started getting away from us, (Levis is) forcing things. That’s the competitor in him.”

“(Tennessee’s defense was) playing some zones that ended up plugging up a lot of things,” Levis said. “Credit (Tennessee), but most of it was us shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker completed 19 of 25 passes for 245 yards and three scores. Hooker also ran for a TD.

“We’re here to accomplish the goal we set in January,” Hooker said. “We’ll take every opponent seriously. I have to lock into my assignment.”

The Vols led 27-6 at halftime. Hyatt had three receptions for 91 yards, two of them were for touchdowns.

FACTS & STATS

Tennessee S Jaylen McCollough (aggravated assault arrest) and WR Cedric Tillman (high ankle sprain) both returned to action after missing multiple games. McCollough’s attorney has filed a motion arguing self-defense. … Hooker’s 55-yard scoring pass to Hyatt early in the game was his 20th straight game with a TD pass, breaking his own school record. … Each team missed a PAT in the first half – Kentucky’s Matt Ruffolo had his kick blocked and, after a 10-yard penalty, Tennessee’s Chase McGrath was wide right. … Vols S Doneiko Slaughter got his first career interception on a tipped ball in the red zone. Levis made a TD-saving tackle 48 yards later. He got his second pick in the third quarter. … Kentucky, ranked 115th in sacks yielded in the NCAA, gave up four, including two in the first drive of the second half. … Wildcats LB DeAndre Square (ankle) was injured early, came back, but missed the entire second half. … Scoring more than 30 points in 11 straight games is a Tennessee school record.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: The Wildcats defense couldn’t slow down the Tennessee offense. Other than Georgia, there are three very winnable games left on the Kentucky schedule.

Tennessee: After beating Alabama a couple weeks ago, the Vols had little left to prove. Even so, they showed they are ready for the showdown with Georgia.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: The Wildcats are on the road at Missouri next Saturday, then finish the season at home against Vanderbilt, Georgia and Louisville.

Tennessee: The Vols have a big-time opportunity next Saturday when they travel to Athens for a shot at top-ranked Georgia, the defending national champion.