Kentucky rehires Liam Coen to guide offense and quarterbacks

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has re-hired former Los Angeles Rams assistant Liam Coen as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, returning him to the program he built into one of the SEC’s top attacks in 2021.

Coen, 37, returned to the Rams as OC last season after a highly successful 2021 with the Wildcats, who went 10-3 and won the Citrus Bowl with a pro-style scheme led by quarterback Will Levis. Wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. each exceeded 1,300 yards that season and helped Kentucky rank fifth in Southeastern Conference scoring at 32.3 points per game and eighth in total offense (425.2 yards).

Stoops said he was “very excited” to welcome Coen and his family back to Lexington.

“It was evident that he made a dramatic impact in the one season he was with our team,” the coach said in a release. “He brings a great deal of knowledge, and he also brings an excitement that players and recruits can relate to.”

Coen spent three years in Los Angeles as assistant wide receivers and then quarterbacks coach before his first stint at Kentucky. He helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl in the 2018 season and post consecutive years with dual 1,000-yard receivers. Coen also helped QB Jared Goff post his third consecutive season with at least 3,800 yards passing in 2020.

Coen previously coached collegiately as an assistant at Maine, UMass (his alma mater), Brown and Rhode Island.

Iowa posts 1st Music City Bowl shutout topping Kentucky 21-0

music city bowl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joe Labas threw for 139 yards and a touchdown in his first start and the Iowa Hawkeyes posted the first shutout in the Music City Bowl’s 24 years by beating Kentucky 21-0 Saturday.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also capped his 24th season by matching the late Joe Paterno for the most bowl victories among Big Ten coaches with his 10th.

Iowa (8-5) got a bit of payback for ending last season losing to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl after a late comeback by the Wildcats. The Hawkeyes defense outscored its offense, returning two interceptions for TDs in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes finished the season with their fifth win in six games.

Kentucky (7-6) lost for the third time in four games, this time without quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez as both opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. The loss ended the Wildcats’ school record streak of bowl wins at four straight.

The Hawkeyes scored all their points in the second quarter to seize control, scoring twice 11 seconds apart early in the quarter.

Taking his first snaps in a college game with Spencer Petras out with an upper-body injury, Labas hit Sam LaPorta with a short pass that the tight end took 27 yards pushing through defenders. Labas then found Luke Lachey for a short pass, and the tight end finished off a 15-yard touchdown with 12:08 left.

Drew Stevens pushed the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, setting Kentucky up at the 35. Freshman Destin Wade, also making his collegiate debut, was picked off by Iowa safety Xavier Nwankpa who went 52 yards for the 14-0 lead.

Bowl MVP Cooper DeJean picked off Wade on third-and-10 from the Kentucky 7 and easily ran 14 yards for a 21-0 lead.

The Hawkeyes didn’t miss All-American defensive back Kaevon Merriweather who opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. They posted their second shutout this season, holding Kentucky to 185 yards while sacking Wade four times and forcing the Wildcats to turn it over on downs twice.


Iowa must improve on offense, especially with the Hawkeyes losing All-American linebacker Jack Campbell. This was the Hawkeyes’ sixth game this season posting 222 yards of total offense or less.

Kentucky: The Wildcats gave Wade, from nearby Spring Hill, some experience even with Devin Leary coming in the transfer portal to replace Levis. Wade finished with 98 yards passing and 29 yards rushing as Kentucky was shut out for the first time since Oct. 19, 2019, in a loss to Georgia.


Iowa: Hosts Utah State on Sept. 2 to start the 2023 season

Kentucky: Hosts Ball State on Sept. 2 to start the 2023 season

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

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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.