By LARRY VAUGHT
All Kentucky has done is win and go to bowl games since offensive coordinator Eddie Gran arrived. Yet how often has Gran been the brunt of intense criticism from Kentucky fans for his lack of creativity with his play calling.
However, former UK quarterback Dusty Bonner has called him a “genius” for how he reshaped UK’s offense this year due to quarterback injuries. Former UK running back Anthony White says he still can’t believe the way Gran has come up with different schemes to confuses defenses even when they know the Cats are going to run and run and run … and never pass.
The last three games, UK has rushed for over 400 yards — something it had never done before. Against Louisville, the Cats gained 564 yards Saturday and ran for six touchdowns behind a brilliant performance by receiver turned quarterback Lynn Bowden.
Kentucky is now 7-5 and headed to a nice bowl destination. Maybe Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl. Maybe Nashville for the Music City Bowl. Maybe Charlotte for the Belk Bowl.
But for a team that was 2-3 and had its top three quarterbacks on the depth chart hurt before Gran made the bold decision to turn the offense over to Bowden, UK’s best receiver, it has been a remarkable finish and coach Mark Stoops gave a lot of the credit to Gran after Saturday’s win.
“You really can’t say enough about him. Again, I understand people, they always want to — again, OCs have the biggest target on them. They are an easy target,” Stoops said. “Offensive coordinators, everywhere, everywhere, are easy targets.
“When a run doesn’t work, he should have passed. When he passed, he should have run, right. It’s just too easy. ”
Or it is after you see if a play does or does not work. Gran’s players swear by him. They don’t second-guess him. When he went all-in on Bowden at quarterback, so did the entire offense and suddenly a one-dimensional offense got really hard for anybody to stop. In seven games, Bowden himself went over 1,000 yards and explosive plays just kept coming.
“What he’s done, you know, an enormous amount of stress and pressure on him and all of us,” Stoops said.
The UK coach said remembered when Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw decided to go full-time with Bowden at quarterback and build a package for him. Stoops and his coaches met several times going over options before Gran opted for Bowden.
“I’m going to say this: He really made the right decision. He did not back off with Lynn. When he made that decision, he moved forward,” Stoops said. “He really helped me because I come back Monday morning, are you sure about this, and what do you want to do.
“He kept on coming back to it and was very strong on his conviction and so was Darin Hinshaw and the staff, and as you can see, Lynn gives you so many options. There’s a lot of creative things you can do. You know, it gave us the best opportunity to win. ”