LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Three-game losing streak. Down 7-0 after two plays and then down 13-0 in the final minute of the first half. Nothing going on offense.
Desperation move at quarterback by moving your top receiver and playmaker into the starter's role and opening him up to a string of nasty hits.
Don't forget the obligatory missed field goal.
That was the Cliff's Notes version of the pothole that the University of Kentucky football team wallowed in when the second half began against Arkansas on Saturday night at Kroger Field.
Lynn Bowden Jr. made his first career start at quarterback for the Wildcats — as well as his first start at the position since he was a high school senior in Youngstown, Ohio. Back when all the recruiters loved him -- as a receiver and kick return specialist who needed to give up the idea of playing quarterback in the Big Ten or the SEC.
For more than a week, UK coach Mark Stoops and his program worked to keep it a secret about who was going to play quarterback — Bowden or the injured Sawyer Smith.
The secret is now a headline: Bowden should be Kentucky's quarterback for the second half of this season.
Bowden saved the game — and perhaps the season, directing the Wildcats to 17 points in the second half of a 24-20 victory over the Razorbacks. So long three-game losing streak as the Wildcats moved to 3-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC.
Better give Bowden more credit than that. Bowden danced 24 yards for the winning touchdown with less than seven minutes to play. He was good and he was clutch.
He completed seven of 11 passes with a touchdown but without an interception. He made the run/pass decisions with savvy, keeping the ball for 24 rushing attempts that translated to 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"He's a very good football player," UK coach Mark Stoops told the SEC Network after the game. "Lynn's just a dynamic player. He's a winner. He did that stuff in high school.
"He's used to having the ball in his hands. He can throw it as you saw tonight I'm just really proud of him. He's really done a great job the last couple weeks getting ready."
"During the week we were keeping it under wraps that I was going to come out here and play quarterback," Bowden said. "My teammates and coaches they put their trust in me. And big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games."
He played like a quarterback who can run like crazy, make sensible passing decisions and deliver when the pressure is percolating.
Kentucky started the game as if the Wildcats thought kickoff was at 7:45 p.m., not 7:30 p.m. On the Razorbacks' second snap, Arkansas got the Kentucky defense moving left and halfback Rakeem Boyd looked precisely like the second-best running back in the Southeastern Conference.
Boyd ease through a gap over right guard, eased outside and flashed 74 yards for a touchdown.
The Kentucky defense forced a punt on the Razorback's second possession but Arkansas added back-to-back field goals the next two times the visitors had the ball.
The Wildcats first three possessions were not inspiring. Punt. Fumble. Missed field goal from 47 yards.
But the Wildcats fixed things in the second half.
They fixed things on defense. Arkansas had that 74 yard touchdown run but only 109 rushing yards the rest of the game. The Razorbacks scored on only one of their last six possessions. Kentucky stuffed them on the UK 22-yard line when the visitors moved into possession for a game-winning touchdown.
They fixed things on offense. Not only did Bowden run effectively, A.J. Rose also ran for 90 yards. They fixed things in the kicking game, too. Matt Ruffalo kicked a 50-yard field goal for the Wildcats' first points of the second half.
Next for Kentucky?
Not much reason to high-five. Saturday brings a trip to Georgia, which figures to be in a foul and angry mood after spitting out a double-overtime home loss to lowly South Carolina, a loss that makes a trip to the national playoff unlikely for the No. 3 Bulldogs.
Then the Wildcats sandwich home games with Missouri (Oct. 26) and Tennessee (Nov. 9) around an off week. Missouri was cruising toward its fifth consecutive victory at home against Ole Miss Saturday night. Tennessee played its best game of the season, topping the Mississippi State team that defeated UK last month.
The road to even six wins looks less promising than it did in August. But it looks better than it appeared at the start of the second half.
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