Kentucky didn’t come out slow this time, as they jumped out to a 22-0 lead heading into the half. The mix of a powerful offense and impenetrable defense was fun to watch.
And it didn’t slow down in the second half. Well, the offense did a bit, but the incessant rain played a big factor in that. However, the defense continued to hold strong, as they prove week in and week out that they’re the real deal.
The Cats are on bye next week before squaring off with the Tennessee Volunteers in two weeks time. The Vols are coming off a big win against the South Carolina Gamecocks, shortly after manhandling the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
What looked like an automatic win in September could now be a key game in Kentucky’s schedule. But for now, let’s enjoy this huge win!
Another game, another sloppy field
For the second straight game, UK played in an absolute downpour. The rain slowly got worse and worse throughout the game, and by halftime, the majority of the fans had fled the stadium.
I couldn’t blame them. The conditions were terrible and it made it difficult for either teams to move the ball effectively. It also made kicking a near-disaster for Kentucky, as they missed two extra points early on, while Missouri badly missed a first-half field goal.
However, there was one player in particular who was an absolute difference-maker regardless of the weather. We’ll get to him in a bit.
JJ Weaver gets his first playing time
JJ Weaver has made waves in recent weeks with the rumors swirling that he may be considering a transfer to UK’s hated archrival — the Louisville Cardinals.
Despite his own mother denying the rumors on Twitter, there was still some skepticism that Weaver at least considered a change of scenery.
Tonight, however, the 6-5, 240-pound freshman out of Louisville got his first playing time of the season. With a few injuries up front, including one to Kash Daniel, Weaver finally got on the field and made a huge hit to stop Mizzou on a third down early in the game. He also had a big-time pass break-up on a third down in the fourth quarter.
The freak athlete has star potential, and holding onto the blue-chipper will be vitally important. He started to show why tonight.
Chance Poore is back
After a brief absence, Chance Poore has returned to Kentucky’s starting kicker role. After Matt Ruffolo badly missed two extra points, Poore was called upon to handle the kicking duties the rest of the way.
And that will likely continue for the rest of the season.
As you may remember (who could forget?), Poore struggled big time early in the season. He has an absolute boot, but it appeared he could literally only kick the ball straight.
The redshirt freshman changed that tonight with a big 43-yard field goal from the right hash, as well as two extra points, all in the pouring down rain.
After being spoiled for years in the kicking game with Austin MacGinnis, it was beginning to look like Kentucky’s biggest weakness. Now, it looks like they’re right back on track.
Lynn Bowden was nothing short of amazing, once again. The Randall Cobb clone can make huge plays every time he touches the ball and the stats he’s put up the last three games are bonkers.
Bowden is likely gone after this season, so enjoy him now, because he’s an absolute stud. He’s the first player in 20+ years to have 300+ receiving yards, 300+ rushing yards, and 100+ passing yards in the same season. That was before tonight and he still has four games left.
Not to mention, Bowden is now the leading the rusher on the team after put up over 200 yards on the ground tonight.
Bowden is a special player, and one that doesn’t come along very often. He does have his downfalls, which will be addressed below, but his playmaking ability is second to none.
Ball security has become an issue
It feels like this has been an issue for awhile, but it’s been especially true since Bowden has taken over at QB. He does so many good things that it’s hard to criticize, but ball security HAS to be a bigger priority.
The dynamic playmaker turned the ball over twice — both at midfield — on fumbles that could have been avoided. These weren’t the defensive players making good plays. It was Bowden being careless with the ball. And in extremely wet conditions at that.
He was having trouble holding onto the ball — during the catch, and after — even before he was moved to QB. Add that to the fumbles we’ve seen from Chris Rodriguez, the muffed punts by Josh Ali, and the interceptions by Sawyer Smith, and all of a sudden it looks like UK shoots themselves in the foot far too often.
The playing conditions certainly played a factor, but ball security has to be a priority moving forward.
Sawyer Smith saw very, very, very limited time
Smith was expected to be available and ready to play tonight. While it wasn’t a sure thing how much he’d play, it was widely presumed that he would split time with Bowden, unless one was in a significant rhythm.
Smith did see the field, but it wasn’t for long. Bowden went down with an injury in the second quarter and Smith came in to replace him.
He handed the ball off twice before throwing a pass that bounced off the receiver’s chest and right into the hands of Josh Ali. It was good for a nine-yard gain.
He also came in for some mop-up duty playing time with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but that didn’t give us much to see.
While there wasn’t much to go off of, Smith did look much better in warm-ups than he has in previous weeks. The Cats will probably rotate their two QBs from here on out, but they also may roll with Bowden as long as he has the hot hand.
Passing the football will become important in the coming weeks, but right now, Bowden’s running ability has been unstoppable.
This defense is the real deal
The Kentucky defense isn’t as good as it was last season, but it’s still pretty darn good.
They struggle in the run game, but the pass defense has been phenomenal. What was supposed to be the Cats’ biggest hole heading into the season has become its biggest weapon.
They did give up a 74-yard swing-pass touchdown, but I think we can give the secondary a break on that, considering the pass was thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
Through eight games, the defense has only given up four touchdowns through the air. Like I said, the run defense is a work in progress, but overall, the Cats limit their opponents’ opportunities. And they do so by forcing teams to beat themselves, usually in the way of the bend-don’t-break mentality.
It can be frustrating at times, but it’s a way to limit possessions and force the opposition to make play after play, regardless of how simple they might seem. Stoops has found a defensive scheme that works for him.
And the streak of allowing less than 30 points continues.
That was a heck of a performance by the Lynn Bowden and the Cats. Eight wins is still a legitimate possibility, but at the very least, a bowl game should no longer be questionable.
With all the adversity this team has faced this season, the fight and perseverance has been nothing short of amazing.