Facing a must-win early situation at the midpoint of the year and playing on a day celebrating the life and career of legendary UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen, SEC all-purpose yards leader Lynn Bowden Jr. made sure the Kentucky Wildcats would not lose on a chilly Saturday night in Lexington, willing his team to a 24-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Bowden, making his first career start at quarterback, did a little bit of everything for the Cats. He rushed 24 times for 196 yards, which ranks 10th all-time in UK history. Bowden was also 7-11 passing for 77 yards and a touchdown.
UK running backs AJ Rose and Kavoisey Smoke added 90 and 45 yards on the ground, respectively. On the night, the Cats rushed the ball 54 times for 349 yards.
The Cats defense also came up huge, shaking off a 74-yard Arkansas touchdown run on the second play of the game to hold the Razorback offense to 235 yards after that.
Let’s do a quick assessment of the Kentucky performance.
OFFENSE: A. Look, UK is down to their fourth-string quarterback and they still found a way to win an SEC game. That’s enough for me. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw put together a masterful game plan to utilize Bowden’s talents and give him opportunities to succeed.
DEFENSE: A. If you take away one big play, the Cats' defense only gave up around five yards a play. They also generated pressure on Arkansas’ quarterbacks, knocking the starter out of the game and giving up one short drive to the backup. For the night, UK had three sacks and seven tackles for losses.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Kicker Matt Ruffalo narrowly missed a 47-yard field goal but came back to nail a 50-yard attempt that had plenty of distance. Punter Max Duffy was solid as usual, averaging 44 yards per punt. The Cats kick and punt return was okay, but you could tell the difference without the electric Bowden not there.
Find their identity. Going forward, it appears that the M.O. for the Cats is running the ball effectively and staying ahead of the sticks on offense, play really solid defense and tackle well, and execute on special teams. Essentially this game plan is the old Virginia Tech way of doing business. Is it flashy? No. Does it win games? Absolutely.
Keep expanding the offense for Bowden. Now that the secret is out and Bowden will be the quarterback for the foreseeable future, the task now for Gran and Hinshaw is to keep adding to the offense and keep opposing defenses off balance.
Better starts. Life gets a lot easier when your team can start well. Given the situation facing this team, it is imperative that the Cats get off to good starts and not have to keep digging out from behind, especially with the second half of their SEC schedule to go.
Alabama 47, Texas A&M 28: The beat still goes on in Tuscaloosa. Bama rolls and Nick Saban is mad at the student section.
South Carolina 20, Georgia 17 in 2 OT: Will Muschamp is set at USC for at least the next three years in Columbia. Or until he loses a game he should win.
Tennessee 20, Mississippi State 10: No one is happier in Knoxville more than coach Jeremy Pruitt. Next week he faces his old boss on the Third Saturday in October in Tuscaloosa.
UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10: The watch is on now for coach Derek Mason’s fading job security. The only other win the Rebels had was against an FCS opponent.
LSU 42, Florida 28: After years of searching for a big-play quarterback in the Bayou, the Tigers have their man in Joe Burrow. A date with Alabama is on the horizon.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on social media and local print media outlets.