LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – If you Google this question: “Do cats like water?” The new result in the morning might well be, “Lynn Bowden does.”
The University of Kentucky football team got wet and wild for a second week in a row. But unlike in a frustrating shutout loss at Georgia, on Saturday at Kroger Field the Wildcats swam, back-stroked, belly flopped and in general cannonballed back to the .500 mark and back to having fun in a 29-7 victory over Missouri.
Lynn Bowden Jr. rushed for a career-high 204 yards, more than any player in the SEC this season, and scored a pair of touchdowns. There was little need to throw the ball, and even if there had been, there was little way to do it by the end of a night that saw ever-intensifying rain hang over a crowd of the few and the proud at Kroger Field.
"I'm really proud of the guys," UK coach Mark Stoops said. "The last three or four weeks, I feel like they've really been gelling. . . . And what can you say about Lynn? So tough. So tough. And talented. And if the weather had been a little bit better I think he’d have thrown it more and better, because we had some opportunities because he’s so dynamic at running the ball."
Here’s why the performance is important. It ratifies what this Kentucky team basically proved a week ago between the hedges, that it remains engaged, remains enthused, and is having fun in the midst of this Bowden-to-QB experiment.
Yes, it poured, but it also proved that there is no cloud hanging over this team, and no uncertainty about who the quarterback is. The only action graduate transfer Sawyer Smith saw was a couple of handoffs midway through the second quarter and mop up-duty with five minutes to play, the game in hand, and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops looking to preserve Bowden.
Some of that was a function of the weather, but Bowden starting was a decision that was made by Stoops and the offensive coaches last Sunday.
UK led 22-0 at half and outgained the Tigers 213-98 in the half. Kavosiey Smoke capped a 7 play, 86-yard drive with a one-yard dive over the top to put UK up 6-0 early in the second quarter, then A.J. Rose scored from 10 yards 20 yards out to make it 12-0. After a 43-yard Chance Poore field goal, Bowden scored on a 10-yard run to put the Wildcats up 22-0 with 10 seconds to play before half.
Chunk plays got the Wildcats going. Bowden hit Bryce Oliver for a 44-yard completion late in the first quarter to set up Kentucky’s first score. And Bowden ran 46 yards to set up the second. In the second half, Bowden had rushes of 34 and 33 yards.
He wound up running the ball 21 times and averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
But the pivotal play in the game may have been the third play of the fourth quarter. Kentucky was forced to punt, and Missouri had closed to within 22-7. Duffy took the ball and, as usual, drifted a bit to his right to kick the ball. But when he looked up, he saw lots of green. He took off and ran 26 yards for a drive-saving first down, and UK wound up pushing on for another TD that put the game away.
Duffy, who had a single bad punt that hurt the Wildcats in their loss at Georgia, was brilliant on Saturday, with five punts for an average of 52.4 yards, including a 70-yarder.
Kentucky gained 360 yards to 289 for Missouri., which lost its second straight to fall to 5-3 overall, 2-2 in the SEC.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, moved to 2-4 in the SEC, and with a bye week coming have winnable games against Tennessee at Vanderbilt, Tennessee Martin and Louisville to finish the season.
It’s not the season the Wildcats had hoped for. But given some of the injuries they’ve endured, it could yet wind up a season to be proud of – if they can manage to get the job done on dry land.
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