Despite 302 rushing yards out of the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night, it wasn’t enough to pull out a win against border rival Tennessee.
In UK’s 17-13 loss to the Volunteers at Kroger Field, Lynn Bowden, who started his fourth game at quarterback, led his team with 128 yards on the ground. Running backs Chris Rodriguez, AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke also added significant numbers, but it was a lack of passing and short-yardage plays that gave UK trouble.
The Cats’ final offensive attempt was a go-for-it play in the red zone on 4th down with a little over a minute to go, trailing by three points. Coaching staff went with Bowden on the play, who needed just two yards for a touchdown, but was stuffed short of the goal line.
“We're looking at all options,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “We have gone to the perimeter, we have gone right at them, so tried a bit of everything. When you get one dimensional it gets hard. Tennessee, their strength defensively has been up front and they have been covering well. Their secondary is playing well. So it makes it tough and we did miss some short yardage plays today, certainly the one at the end there.”
Stoops says Bowden did exactly what he needed to do on that play, but says they’ll take a look at it and see if they should have done something differently.
“But I'm not going to argue with that kid and the way he has a chance to pull the ball down and try to drive it in there and get the one yard. Credit them (Tennessee) for a nice stop,” Stoop said.
Tennessee entered Saturday’s matchup allowing 137.7 rushing yards per game, which was far passed by Kentucky. Being “one-dimensional” seemed to be UK’s vice against the Vols, and with just 25 passing yards on the night, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s solution is to simply “keep passing the ball.” Coaches say backup quarterback Sawyer Smith is available, but they’ll have to discuss whether or not they’ll use him in the future to create a passing game or to keep sticking with Bowden.
“We’ll discuss that as a staff,” Gran said. “We had a chance to win the game at the 1-yard line today. We had the chance to win the last two or three or whatever it was, within one yard. But obviously we talk about that every single Sunday and what we can do to better maximize the offense and score points.”
Bowden says it was “little mistakes” that costed his team the game, but they’re going to use what they learned to get back on track and not let their final play affect them too much.
“I tried to stretch it, you know,” Bowden said of the play. “They took my option read away, they attacked it, and I just tried to turn the corner and get in.”
The junior gave his all in his third 100-yard rushing game, accounting for nearly half of UK’s total net rushing yards on 26 attempts. He says there were small things his team didn’t connect on that they’ll have to fix this upcoming week in practice.
“Right now, I don’t know how to feel,” Bowden said. “I was a little emotional in the locker room. (I’m a) Quarterback, so I’ve got to lead these guys and I never want to drop my head. I walked through the fans with my head down, I just want to apologize to them. I still should’ve interacted. We’ll get back in the lab and just go hard.”