Who would win? All-Decade Kentucky offense vs. defense
If Kentucky’s top offensive and defensive players of the last decade, which we highlighted here and here, faced off, who would win? Obviously, you’ve got to suspend some disbelief here — I mean, who’s going to play defense for the offensive team and vice versa? But all of those issues aside … here’s how it shakes down.
After a difficult first half, the All-Decade offense overcame a physical effort from the All-Decade defense to nab a 22-21 victory on a controversial and immediately infamous last-second play. Mark Stoops wasn’t sure whether to be thrilled or furious, but the selected few who viewed the game in Commonwealth Stadium (What? It won the all-decade Field Name matchup) will never forget it.
Kentucky opened the game attempting to balance Benny Snell’s runs with passes from Terry Wilson. The problem is that the All-Decade defense would have none of it. Josh Allen routine hurried Wilson on his throws, and Kentucky’s defensive backs held their own, with Mike Edwards picking up a crucial red-zone interception late in the first half. The defense, meanwhile, nabbed a scoop-and-score from Bud Dupree, and took a 14-3 edge into halftime.
Kentucky’s offense was forced to reinvent itself in the second half, as receiver Lynn Bowden, shadowed by Derrick Baity and held to 2 catches for 17 yards, moved to quarterback. With Bowden running run-pass option plays with Benny Snell, Kentucky managed to assert itself on offense, first with a 2-yard scoring run from Snell, then with a 12-yard pop pass from Bowden to tight end C.J. Conrad. The second score drew the offense to within 21-15.
With time winding down, Kentucky had a 4th-and-goal play at the 2-yard line. Bowden dropped back to pass, scanned the field and seeing no one open, looked as if he was about to run. Linebacker Danny Trevathan was bearing down on Bowden, who stopped on a dime, and flipped a shallow pass high in the air. Trevathan froze in his tracks, which allowed guard Bunchy Stallings to pancake him. Bowden then hurdled Stallings and diving, snagged his own pass in the corner of the end zone just ahead of oncoming safety Darius West.
The officials met and discussed the play for minutes, eventually ruling that no one could prove that it wasn’t legal for Bowden to throw a pass to himself. Austin MacGinnis’s extra point made the final score 22-21 for the offense.
Kentucky’s defense seemed to have an early advantage in this game, as the relatively limited offense didn’t present much of a passing threat. However, Kentucky’s biggest success in 2018 and 2019 often came in games where the run-pass balance was non-existant. At Kentucky’s best, players like Bowden and Snell could power the ball down the opposing defense’s throat, and the combination of both in one backfield was too much even for Kentucky’s own defense to stop.
Bowden’s game-winning pass to Bowden cleared the stage for an emotional postgame interview where Bowden thanked God, Mark Stoops, his linemen, and ultimately himself for throwing himself such a sweet pass.