By Ethan Levine
Entering his fourth season at the helm of UK’s football program, Paul “Bear” Bryant was still just beginning to emerge onto the college football scene.
He had led the Cats to three consecutive winning seasons and was only just getting started.
The 1949 UK football team reached heights that football at UK had never reached before. The Cats began the season with a subtle 71-7 defeat of Mississippi Southern and followed it up with four consecutive shutouts and a scoring margin of 135 to, of course, nothing.
UK finished the regular season with a 9-2 record, including a 35-0 defeat of Florida on the road late in the season.
But, in typical UK fashion, the Cats still managed to lose to Tennessee that year 6-0.
Although UK lost to Santa Clara in the Orange Bowl that season, the Cats’ final record of 9-3 was nothing to shrug about. Bryant’s defense allowed just 74 points total over all 12 games, an average of just below 6.2 points per game. In that 12-game span, the Cats’ defense also posted five shutouts.
Captained by Harry Ulinski and Dick Holway, the 1949 UK team put the Cats on the map and set Bryant and the program up for even greater heights in the near future (you’ll see one of those teams in particular later this week).
The season may not have ended with a title, but the dominance and consistency of the 1949 Cats ranks them as the fourth greatest UK team of all time.