Citrus Bowl prep “similar” to Super Bowl, according to Liam Coen


Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen coaches his team during an open practice in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

Barkley Truax

“It’s similar to playing in the Super Bowl to be honest, because our work needs to be done—and is done—prior to going down to the site. So our work is getting done,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said.

Coen, who is about to complete his first season as the offensive coordinator and primary play-caller for Kentucky, knows better than most about what success looks like within an organization. In 2018, which was his first season as quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, his team found themselves in Super Bowl 53 against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, ultimately losing 13-3 in Brady’s final Super Bowl victory with the Patriots. 

“I was extremely fortunate to be hired into two organizations that were having success, and had previous success,” Coen said, referring to the Rams and UK. “To be a part of that Rams run that we had and Sean [McVay] had really got it going the year before in 2017, you could feel that there was a different vibe about the team that I had never been a part of going into that 2018 season.”

Some coaches wait a lifetime to gain the experience of coaching a Super Bowl. For Coen to gain that experience so young in his career has, in his eyes, only made him a better coach and considers it a valuable experience.

Fast forward nearly four years and Coen has that same big-game type of feeling while preparing ahead of the Citrus Bowl against Iowa. He sees a lot of similarities when it comes to preparation for a huge game against a top opponent and has his NFL experience to thank for teaching him how to navigate these season-defining situations.

“To come into another situation at Kentucky that has had a ton of success—that had been very good and just needed a little bit of a change on the offensive side of the ball,” Coen said. “They had been so good for so long and to be a part of this is something that I’m extremely thankful for, for the opportunity for coach [Mark] Stoops in this organization here as well as the Rams and [McVay].

While Coen doesn’t have to prepare for one of the greatest NFL dynasties of all time this go around, he does have to find a way to work around the Hawkeyes’ ball-hawking defense that has forced 24 interceptions throughout the regular season. That, however, comes with the territory of playing in high-profile games against high-profile opponents.

“[I’m] a first year coach and at Kentucky we go 9-3, we’re going to play in a New Year’s Day game,” Coen said. “There are some parallels—I’m just really happy to be a part of it.”