Rapid Reaction: Kentucky makes best of Bowden at QB, routs Louisville
After a 2-3 start and a bevy of quarterback injuries, the football gods who shepherded the Kentucky Wildcats through a 10-3 season and a Citrus Bowl win in 2018 appeared to have given the Wildcats a bunch of lemons in 2019.
But Saturday, after a 45-13 win over in-state rival Louisville to end the Wildcats’ regular season at 7-5, the Wildcats can acknowledge that they made sweet lemonade out of their somewhat QB-less team, thanks to an astounding rise from Lynn Bowden.
Bowden became only the second Wildcat ever to amass multiple 200-yard rushing games in his career, passing that mark late in the third quarter on a 46-yard touchdown scamper that put the game out of reach. Since taking over as starting quarterback, Bowden rushed for over 1,100 yards and led the Wildcats to a 5-2 mark for Kentucky’s fourth consecutive season of seven or more wins and a fourth consecutive bowl bid.
The Wildcats also set a team rushing record for the second consecutive game, besting last week’s mark of 462 rushing yards by gaining 517 yards on the ground against the Cardinals. Considering that the old mark had stood since 1951, Kentucky’s second record game in two weeks marked the intensity that the Wildcats brought to the annual battle for the Governor’s Cup trophy.
On a rainy afternoon at Kentucky’s Kroger Field, Louisville struck first, taking the opening kickoff and converting a 4th down with a touchdown pass from QB Micale Cunningham to wide receiver Tutu Atwell from 33 yards. Louisville missed the extra point and Kentucky responded with a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive, capped by a junior back A.J. Rose’s 4-yard TD run. Matt Ruffolo made the extra point, giving Kentucky a lead it did not relinquish.
Bowden added a 6-yard scoring run early in the second quarter and Ruffolo’s 45-yard field goal stretched Kentucky’s advantage to 17-6. After a failed fourth-down attempt in the final minute of the half, Louisville grabbed momentum with a 56-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman back Javian Hawkins, who eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the day on that play.
After the intermission, Bowden made the Cardinals pay with a 60-yard burst in which he took off down the left sideline and worked his way back to the middle of the field for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, he shook off an injury to rush for his third touchdown of the day on a 46-yard carry.
Kentucky sealed the victory with a 64-yard touchdown rush from backup Chris Rodriguez, which put the freshman over 100 rushing yards for the game. That put Kentucky over 400 rushing yards for the third consecutive game.
Kentucky finishes the 2019 regular season at 7-5 and will presumably fill a spot in the group of six SEC bowl games. The Belk Bowl in Charlotte is perhaps the most likely destination, maybe against Virginia Tech. That said, representatives of the Gator Bowl were in the press box at Kroger Field.