For a fourth straight season, the Kentucky Wildcats are going bowling.
Saturday, the Wildcats secured a bowl-bid with a 50-7 win over the UT-Martin Skyhawks at a rainy Kroger Field.
Despite some sloppy play that included a muffed punt and a boneheaded interception by Lynn Bowden, the Wildcats never allowed the game to be close after a pair of bad snaps from UT-Martin on their first two possessions helped the Wildcats take an early 9-0 lead that grew to 29 by halftime.
Plenty of young players got a taste of action, and Kentucky was able to provide some much-needed rest for their starters thanks to their ability to put the game away early.
After the, game head coach Mark Stoops, and several players met with the media to discuss the home victory.
Here’s a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.
COACH STOOPS: Very good team effort today. It was really fun to put together a complete game. Proud that a lot of guys got in. A lot of players played well. Guys have been working extremely hard. I felt like it was a relatively clean game. Early there were a few snags. Offensively we couldn’t seem to get many plays with the safety and the defensive score and then one-play touchdown. Took a few plays to just get into rhythm. Really proud of the team effort. Guys really prepared well. Played hard. Got an opportunity to get a lot of guys out. Hopefully that will give us a little -- hopefully they’ll be a little bit fresher going into Monday knowing we have a big game coming up here this week.
Q. With your rushing stat, you always tell us to say when you outrush a team by 474 yards ... (laughter)
COACH STOOPS: If you outrush them like that, I can pretty much tell you it’s going to be 100 percent. If not, I’ll take it some day. But when you outrush somebody by whatever, 470 yards, yeah, you have a pretty good opportunity to win.
Q. How satisfying is it to know, I guess, in terms of bowl games that you’ve been to, with this team, the group that you have this year, how would you rate this as just some of the other teams that you made a bowl game with?
COACH STOOPS: It’s hard to compare them because they’re all different and unique and they’re all special in their own ways. That’s for sure. And I have great appreciation for all of our ex-players, in particular the guys that were here early on when I was here and went through some very tough times. But they laid the foundation for us. And we don’t take the bowl games for granted. We certainly appreciate it. And never take them for granted because we know we went a lot of years without going to bowl games here. But with this group, definitely very special, because they really did hit some adversity and really looked it right in the eye and moved on. And they’ve been really a lot of fun to coach. And I think through the tough times, through the adversity, it created some identity to this team. So they’re very special to me because of the way they’ve handled things, the way they’ve practiced, the way they prepare, the way they compete. They’re an extremely tough group. And I greatly appreciate them.
Q. Defensively, what did you see that maybe you hadn’t seen in other games so far this game?
COACH STOOPS: Defensively what did we see?
Q. Was there something you saw today that you didn’t see from other games?
COACH STOOPS: From our group? Well, I think the fact that we had, whatever, 10 yards maybe at half and I think some of that had to do obviously with the freebies, the snaps, the miscues by them. But it still was a good effort by our defense. I thought they played a pretty dominant game from start to finish. And we got a lot of guys in. We played a lot of guys, a lot of young kids early starting the second half. So we got quite a few snaps which was good for them.
Q. The way the D line was just rushing against the quarterbacks there, what did you see from practice during the week that led to what you saw today?
COACH STOOPS: I think if you watched us lately we’ve been playing fairly solid defense. And so I think we’re just trying to continue to build on the good things we’ve been doing. Brad’s done a really solid job, good job and all the coaches have. And so he’s got them in the right position. So we’ve just got to continue to build on that.
Q. Putting Lynn back in in the second half, how much of that was you wanting to get him to the threshold --
COACH STOOPS: I couldn’t get him out, with one more series. He wanted one more series, at least a few more snaps. So we did want to do that, though, anyway because we felt we started the game a bit sloppy and wanted to start the second half clean and have a good drive with our offense. And then we got it down there and still stalled the first drive of the second half. But it was a good start to the second half.
Q. It’s like you all are trying to establish him as a pocket passer early in the game. Is that by design or you just want to expose him to hits since the score was what it was?
COACH STOOPS: It was. We’ve been trying to do that. A lot of it has been weather, with the games, a lot of tight tough possessions. But we’ve been wanting to just get more and more comfortable and work on that and try to improve in certain areas.
Q. Question regarding breaking the single-game rushing record ...
COACH STOOPS: I didn’t know about it until the end, to be honest with you. And I had no idea. And somebody told me we’re pretty close and we kept taking a knee going backwards. I didn’t want to do that to our team, so I wanted to give them an opportunity to go forward but it didn’t affect it.
Q. Is it gratifying, two of the top seven or so rushing performances at the school or three of the top seven, your team --
COACH STOOPS: I never really thought about it like that. It’s one of the things you think about afterwards. You’re just in the moment, trying to find the best opportunity to win. Just, again, really appreciate our coaches, Coach Gran, Coach Hinshaw, Coach Schlarman. All those guys have done a remarkable job being physical and running the ball, and another really sloppy day. When was the last time we had three games like with this kind of weather? Probably been a while. You guys covered it for a while, but I know it’s been since, the first time since I’ve been here we’ve had three games here like this where it’s been that cold and rainy and really nasty out there, so rushing the ball really helps.
Q. You obviously have a lot of talent at running back. To see Travis Tisdale break one out there, his speed how exciting is that for the future?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Travis is a really great kid. Really works hard. Always has such a good positive attitude, mentally tough. He comes from a tough high school program. Really works hard. He’s got some really big upside and got some speed. So it was really nice to see him get in there. You guys noticed that last year, remember when these guys got in and you saw a bit of Chris and Kavosiey and you knew that you saw a future. And it’s the same way with him.
Q. How important has Max Duffy been to you all season, and what did you think of the tackle he had earlier?
COACH STOOPS: Doesn’t surprise me that he made the tackle. I’m sure he’s been waiting for that opportunity. So just knowing him. But he’s been a big role. It’s always so important. Field position, it’s really big to us and to most people. In this league, there’s a lot of one-possession games in here, so the field position is big. Max has been solid all year. So, it was fun for him to make that tackle. I know he liked that.
Q. Jamin Davis has led you in tackles two weeks in a row now, how encouraging is his development?
COACH STOOPS: It’s really good to see Jamin do that. He just needed some reps and some opportunity because he’s so explosive. He’s a big, athletic guy. And just getting more and more reps, more confidence. It’s really good for him.
Q. Is this a one-game deal for Chris?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, it was. It’s a one-game deal, violation of team rules. And really don’t want to get into it anymore, but he’ll be back in action Monday.
Q. How important is it for the team to have this kind of performance right before a big rivalry game?
COACH STOOPS: I think it’s important. It’s good. We’ve played good back-to-back weeks. And so, again, hopefully some guys getting a few less snaps, hopefully it will give us a little boost, a little energy. Late in the year, it gets tough. These guys get beat up, as I mentioned, but we’re in pretty good shape as far as physically. And getting ready for a big opportunity here this week.
Q. 24/7 Sports reported that you met with Florida State this week. Any status report on that that you’d like Kentucky fans to know?
COACH STOOPS: I’m not going to get into specifics. But Florida State, I had a great experience there. It afforded me the opportunity to be here. And I love it here. I’ve been very fortunate. I have great administration. Dr. Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart, they’ve been so good to me. The fans, our players, the recruits. And this is where my heart is. This is where I want to be. So I’m going to be at Kentucky. I felt like I was answering too many questions with recruits. And just felt like it was time to answer those questions directly and be honest with them. And this is where I want to be. So this is what I want to do.
Q. Kind of jumping off, seeing the way you guys have managed to make something out of this season, when you lose two quarterbacks, is that seeing the depth and is that kind of almost self-fulfilling?
COACH STOOPS: You know, it is. I think every year it’s a new opportunity. It’s a new challenge. The league that we play in, it’s extremely difficult. And with this, it’s just -- it does challenge us in different ways, and it is gratifying in certain ways. For us it’s always about trying to put our kids in the best position to be successful. We’re not always perfect. That’s for sure. But we work extremely hard to try to do that. And it has been fun with this group to see the growth and to see them overcome and to see the way they’ve rallied. And to have an opportunity to go get number seven this week would be a big opportunity for us. I think it’s human nature for us certainly coaches and fans to look back at the what-ifs; there’s a lot of close calls. But everybody’s like that. There’s a lot of close games in this league. And so we’ve had some really close calls as well.
Q. Question regarding having two bye weeks ...
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, there’s no question. I believe I touched on that a little bit Monday -- maybe I didn’t -- in my press conference. But there’s no question that the bye weeks this year first time since I can’t remember, the first time I think sense I’ve been coaching, that there’s been two. And it was a good year for us in that regard. It gives us an opportunity to continue to build on what we had to do offensively. And give Eddie and the staff time to completely tweak and adjust. And they’ve had to adjust on the fly throughout this season. And the byes certainly helped.
Q. Looked like DeAndre was available if you needed him, DeAndre Square, available to you if you needed him.
COACH STOOPS: He should be back. He would have played and could have played. But we tried to get through it without him. And if he could have played, he would have. But that stinger, it’s just been little things, and it’s why aggravate it if you get through the game. I’m glad we kept him fresh.
#93 Max Duffy, P
On his tackle …
“I was a little bit annoyed that he got a return because I kicked it to the three-yard line and normally they don’t return that but yes, he’s a really good returner. And we knew he was going to take a chance on us even though you know he’s from a little bit of a smaller school. We knew we had to do a good job and we might have missed one or two at the start there and I probably wanted to defend my stats a little bit and got after him and made sure I made the tackle. I don’t know if I would’ve gotten after him as hard if I didn’t want to defend my stat, so I made sure he couldn’t get the big return. To be honest he probably should’ve taken it all the way, they had a couple of lead blockers that kind of ignored me, being the punter, so I passed him and made a tackle. I know all the people back home, especially my old teammates are going to say that’s the first proper tackle I’ve made, so I know those texts are coming.”
On how much it means to be bowl eligible …
“It means a lot. It’s great to just keep getting wins, and we also get that extra month of practice. We’re all young guys, which I think means a lot. We get to travel for a team, for a week, which we only get to do that once a year. I think it really bonds the guys, I know I’ve made some really great friendships, even more so over the bowl week. It was great last year, and to be able to go do it again is awesome for the team. Especially after coming through all the adversity this year, losing our quarterback and having a new defense and all that kind of stuff, I think it’s a pretty impressive effort to get where we have, and hopefully we can finish it off next week.”
On if the weather affects his style of kicking …
“The wind plays a bit a little bit of a role on which way I’m going to kick the ball, whether I’m going to kick it to the right or to the left. The rain probably plays a bit of a role in what style of kick we’re going to do.”
#4 Josh Paschal, DE
On where this win ranks as opposed to others this season …
“I mean, I don’t know where I can rank it but this means a lot to a lot of people in the program because at the end of the day we went through a lot of adversity this year as a team, but I feel like we faced it well.”
#10 A.J. Rose Jr., RB
On overcoming adversity this season …
“We had a lot of injuries. The season wasn’t going the way we wanted it to go but it just shows how strong this team is and how much we love each other and how much these coaches believe in us, so we go out there and do what we do every week. I’m just proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished this year and we look forward to getting another win, a seventh win next weekend and hopefully getting a better bowl game.”
On breaking the single game rushing record …
“I didn’t even know it until just now so that’s pretty exciting. Whatever that record was we did run the ball good, but you know that all goes to the O line. They did a great job - all three groups, first second and third string. I feel great being a part of breaking a record here and have never been a part of that so it’s pretty exciting.”
#6 Jared Casey, OLB
On the team going to a bowl game …
“I think it’s going to be a great feeling being able to go to my first bowl game and just being able to complete my team. I’ll be playing in that game and I think it’ll be fun.”
On next week against Louisville …
“Next week is going to be even more fun. I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I committed here so it’s going to be fun.”
On the Louisville game being at the end of the year rather than the beginning …
“Yeah It’s a rivalry game so it’s going to make it more important and we always want to beat them. I grew up in Louisville, I know the rivalry so if anyone knows rivalry I do.”
#91 Calvin Taylor Jr., DE
On getting the sixth win after everything this team has been through …
“The theme of the year is responding to adversity so just you know overcoming all of the circumstances. I think the team’s theme is adversity honestly.”
On a great defensive performance …
“We always say we want to come out and start fast and carry that in the second half so in practice we just pay attention to detail and I think that’s really been paying off. So, we’ve been coming out in the first half with lights out.”
#31 Jamar “Boogie” Watson, OLB
On the defense’s mindset today …
“Get after the quarterback. I don’t know how many sacks we had but I knew we got after the quarterback pretty well and that’s been a focus all season”
On the safety to open the game …
“Oh yeah definitely you know first play of the game you get a safety you know it kind of helps your mojo out a little bit you and you know we could keep dominating, it definitely helped us out”
On clinching a spot in a bowl game …
“It’s very special you know you can’t take this season for granted um the offense has been kind of left handed you know playing a receiver at quarterback just for Terry going down, Davonte, you know, key starters going down season ending injuries for us to make a bowl game and have the opportunity to go 7-5 you know that’s a great thing for the season.”
#12 Sawyer Smith, QB
On the team’s bowl eligibility …
“It’s awesome we work hard though every day, day in and day out we have great coaching and great talent on this team. there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be going bowling as we are, so it feels good feels awesome”
On his health status …
“I’m pretty good yeah, I’m pretty good but, yeah I’m feeling good. It was good to go in there and shake the rust off obviously I haven’t played in about a month probably before Vanderbilt, but it was good to get in there and get back in the rhythm of the game.”
On watching Lynn Bowden play …
“It’s so fun to watch Lynn play he’s a dynamic athlete and he opens up for the running backs when we run it and then some of the throws that he gets are people are wide open because you have to respect him running the ball. ”
#1 Lynn Bowden Jr., QB
On the team going to a bowl game …
“it definitely feels good, one step at a time. That’s all we’ve preached this week; you know don’t stoop down to another person’s level and just play our football.”
On the team fighting adversity this season and clinching a bowl game …
“It means a lot to us, me personally cause everyone doubted us, you know just making a switch you know they said we weren’t going to be good, I mean our record doesn’t show but I think we are a pretty damn good team.”
Now, here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- Kentucky is 6-5 overall. UT Martin completes its season 7-5.
- Kentucky leads the series 2-0.
- Since 1953, UK is 22-0 against current FCS schools.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats host the regular-season finale Saturday, Nov. 30, vs. Louisville. Game time is noon and it will be televised on the SEC Network.
- Kentucky is bowl-eligible for the fourth consecutive season. This would be UK’s second-longest bowl streak in school history.
- This was Mark Stoops’ 42nd victory at Kentucky, moving him into sole possession of third place on the UK career wins list.
- Kentucky scored a season-high 50 points, most in a home game since 2016 vs. New Mexico State (62).
- The 43-point margin of victory was most in a home game since 2015 vs. Charlotte (48-point win).
- It is the first time with consecutive wins by at least 24 points since 2010 vs. Western Kentucky and Akron.
- Kentucky has allowed 34 points or less in 25 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.
- 24 straight games at 34 points or less is the longest for Kentucky since a 45-game streak from 1976-80.
- Kentucky did not give up a touchdown pass. UK entered the game tied for first among FBS teams with the fewest touchdown passes allowed, six on the season.
- Kentucky allowed 204 total yards, the fifth consecutive game that UK has limited the opponent to less than 300 yards.
- Kentucky has held five opponents without a touchdown in the first half this season, most since the 1993 defense held six opponents without a touchdown in the first half.
- Kentucky allowed -12 rushing yards, fewest since -23 vs. Vanderbilt in 1996.
- UT Martin’s longest play was 21 yards. UK entered the game tied for fifth in the nation for fewest plays of 40 yards allowed (four this season).
- UT Martin’s longest pass play was 21 yards. UK entered the game tied for third in the nation for fewest pass plays of 40 yards allowed (one this season).
- Kentucky rushed for a school-record 462 yards, the second consecutive game over the 400-yard mark.
- UK had five different players with a rushing touchdown since 2007 vs. Kent State.
- Kentucky averaged 10.3 yards per rushing attempt, a school record and the 11th best single-game mark in SEC history.
- Kentucky had its two longest rushing plays of the season, 63 yards by A.J. Rose and 58 by Lynn Bowden.
- Kentucky had two 100-yard rushers for the second consecutive game.
- Kentucky had season highs with six quarterback sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
- Kentucky took advantage of two bad center snaps over the quarterback’s head, into the end zone, on UT Martin’s first two possessions.
- The first one was picked up by the QB and thrown away for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety. UK’s last safety came against Mississippi State in 2013.
- The second one was recovered by Yusuf Corker for a Kentucky touchdown. It was UK’s first fumble return/recovery for a touchdown since Darius West at Texas A&M in 2018.
- It was the first game with a safety and defensive touchdown since 2009 vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
- UK’s game captains: OG Logan Stenberg, LB Kash Daniel, LB Josh Paschal and athlete Lynn Bowden Jr.
- Junior athlete Lynn Bowden Jr. rushed 11 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed one pass for nine yards.
- This was his fifth 100-yard rushing game, breaking Mike Fanuzzi’s school record for the most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback.
- He had a career-long 58 yards run in the second quarter.
- Bowden averaged 11.7 yards per rushing attempt, best single-game average (min. 10 attempts) since JoJo Kemp vs. Charlotte in 2015, 11 carries with a 15-yard average.
- Bowden became the 38th player in school history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards. He now has 1,013 yards as a Wildcat.
- Bowden is the second player in school history (also Randall Cobb) with 1,000 career yards in receiving, rushing and kickoff returns.
- He became the 10th player in school history to reach 4,000 all-purpose yards in a career. He now has 4,123 yards, tied for eighth place in UK history.
- Junior running back A.J. Rose rushed six times for 105 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown that is UK’s longest run of the season.
- It is his second 100-yard game of the season, fourth of his career. All four of his 100-yard games have come with 10 or fewer rushing attempts.
- Rose has 1,203 career yards, moving up to 30th place on the UK rushing list.
- Rose needed only six carries to reach 100 yards today, fewest since Braylon Heard needed only two carries to rush for more than 100 yards vs. UT Martin in 2014.
- Freshman running back Travis Tisdale rushed four times for 60 yards, including a 53-yard run. He also scored his first collegiate touchdown on a one-yard run.
- Redshirt freshman running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr. rushed six times for 49 yards, including a two-yard touchdown run.
- Redshirt freshman running back Tyler Markray saw his first collegiate action and carries twice for 52 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown run.
- Sophomore safety Yusuf Corker recovered a bad center snap in the end zone in the first quarter, his first collegiate touchdown.
- It is his second consecutive game with a turnover play, as he also had an interception at Vanderbilt.
- He also had two tackles, including one-half tackle for loss.
- Five Wildcats recorded quarterback sacks, led by defensive tackle Calvin Taylor and linebacker Josh Paschal with 1.5 each. Taylor entered the game tied for third in the SEC with six sacks.
- Junior linebacker Jamin Davis made his first collegiate start. He had an interception, the second of his career, and led the Wildcats with six tackles.
- A total of 16 players saw the first game action of their careers.