Once again, it was the tale of two backup quarterbacks on Saturday night at Kroger Field as Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden and Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano had an old fashioned shoot-out for bragging rights in the SEC East.
Unfortunately, Guarantano was the last man standing after throwing for 115 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to lead the Volunteers to a come-from-behind 17-13 victory in a key SEC matchup for both teams.
The Wildcats put together one final drive late in the fourth quarter only to come up short as Bowden was stopped on 4th and Goal with 1:17 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats opened the game with its best offensive drive of the season - 75 yards on 17 plays that ate up the first ten minutes (10:18) of clock - as AJ Rose scored from 2-yards out in the Wildcat formation to give the Cats an early 7-0 lead. Josh Paschal then blocked a punt that led to a 22-yard touchdown run by Kavosiey Smoke. A blocked PAT resulted in a 13-3 halftime lead.
Tennessee’s offense finally reached its boiling point with three scoring plays negated, a 77-yard interception return that was overturned for stepping out of bounds, and two touchdown passes, one called back for an ineligible receiver, and the other from a receiver’s knee being down on the catch.
That’s when Guarantano went to work on the Kentucky secondary, changing both the momentum, and the outcome in a disappointing loss at home.
Once again, the obvious choice is Lynn Bowden, who continues to put this team on his back with his maturity, leadership and ability to make things happen in the open field. Sure, the failed drive at the end of the game was a disappointment, but the playbook has become one dimensional at best with little opportunity to open up the passing game.
Consider that Kentucky had just 77 yards rushing against Tennessee a year ago and Bowden’s performance - 114 yards on 26 carries - would have been praised for eating up clock as one of those “win in the trenches” type games UK Coach Mark Stoops loves.
Sawyer Smith did see limited action and is still considered a better passing threat than Bowden, who was just 4-for-7 through the air for 25 yards and an interception.
However, the Wildcats (4-5 overall, 2-5 in the SEC East) need at least one more victory to become Bowl eligible and Bowden will need the ball in his hands as much as possible next week at Vanderbilt and in closing home games against Tennessee-Martin and Louisville.