By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
You know it’s true. Like me, most of you had given up on the Kentucky football team after it fell behind 13-0 to Arkansas, a team that is most likely one of the worst two teams in the SEC. A fourth loss in a row appeared to be on the horizon and hope was starting to slip away. Some of you were probably googling the Kentucky Basketball schedule to see when the first regular season basketball game would be.
But then, miraculously, Lynn Bowden started to work his magic and the Kentucky defense began to sense that an actual offense did exist at the University of Kentucky and could score some points. And that’s all the defense needed to hold Arkansas to seven points in the second half as Bowden accounted for three touchdowns — two rushing and one passing.
But here’s the dilemma for the coaches. If Bowden can personally account for 21 points of a 24-point offensive performance, should he continue to play quarterback for as long as he can perform and be effective or should they continue to try to speed up Sawyer Smith’s recuperation so that he can step back in at quarterback?
It was easy to see that once Bowden was allowed to mix some of the passing game in to the run-pass option the offense came alive. The Arkansas defense had to play straight up pass coverage which opened up tremendous holes in its contain defense due to the quickness and elusive running ability that Bowden brings to the table. He is every defensive coordinator’s nightmare. A guy that can go 7 for 11 throwing the ball and also rush for 196 yards on 24 carries puts tremendous pressure on any defense. Think poor man’s Lamar Jackson.
So back to the dilemma. Who does Kentucky play at quarterback once Sawyer Smith is healthy enough to play? Keep in mind that UK was beating Florida 21-10 behind Sawyer Smith at quarterback before he was injured and then the Kentucky defense collapsed and allowed Florida to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
So from that very limited sample size — a healthy Sawyer Smith looked pretty good against the Gators for three quarters and Lynn Bowden looked remarkable for three quarters against Arkansas — it’s seems that the coaches do have a sizable quandry when it comes to deciding which player has the intangible of leadership and the ability to make everyone else around him better and which one gives the team the best chance to win.
On the SEC Network Saturday night after the game Dari Nowkhah asked his cohorts that same question, “Who does Kentucky start at quarterback once Sawyer Smith is healthy?” Gene Chizik, former Auburn Head Coach, said without a doubt it should be Sawyer Smith. He went on to justify his answer by saying that Sawyer Smith is a true quarterback while Lynn Bowden is not a quarterback but a wide receiver doing the best he can to help his team win. I’m not sure I’m buying that and I’m not sure Chris Doering, former Florida wide receiver turned football analyst was buying it either.
He said that Sawyer Smith looked great against Florida until he was injured trying to make a touchdown saving tackle. He also said that Lynn Bowden looked amazing and brought a unique set of skills to the quarterback position. His final position was that if Kentucky can get Sawyer Smith healthy enough to be the player he was in the early part of the Florida game then you go with Smith, but if not, Bowden. Could be a great option.
Either way the Kentucky coaches have a dilemma. And I’ll throw one more log on the fire of this dilemma, and that is, Bowden plays the exact type offense that Mark Stoops loves to run. He plays the type offense that Stoops has said in the past is the most difficult for a team to defend against. Kentucky ran the ball 54 times for 330 yards and only threw the ball 11 times. That is vintage Mark Stoops football. Keep the ball on the ground, run the clock and rest the defense as much as possible.
So, if and when Sawyer Smith is healthy enough to be 100 percent, the coaches will have to make a decision on which quarterback to go with but until that point it looks like Lynn Bowden will be running the offense. No pun intended.