Bowden, running backs run over Cards in historic Governor’s Cup win


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. (1) and Kentucky Wildcats running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrate after a UK touchdown during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Louisville Governor’s Cup football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 45-13. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

Kentucky’s rushing offense continues to run through the record books. 

After rushing for an in-game school record 462 rushing yards last weekend against UT-Martin, the Cats delivered quite an encore against the Louisville Cardinals (7-5) on Saturday afternoon. In its second straight Governor’s Cup victory, Kentucky replaced that rushing record once more with 517 yards and six rushing touchdowns in the Cats’ 45-13 win at Kroger Field. 

If that’s not enough, the Cats also set the school record for most rushing yards in a single season in school history with 3,293 rushing yards, outmatching the previous record of 3,124 set back in 1974. Not only that, but their 33 rushing touchdowns this season are also a school record. The Cats have now rushed for over 400 yards in three straight games.

Behind that cornucopia of numbers is someone all too familiar with stealing the spotlight with his elusive legs: Howard Schnellenberger Award winner as Most Valuable Player of the Governor’s Cup, Lynn Bowden.

“Lynn said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I got you,’ and he did. What can you say about Lynn? He is truly remarkable in so many ways,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. “But you have to recognize his competitive nature, and just how tough and competitive and what a leader he is.”

In his seventh straight start at quarterback, Bowden led the way per usual and delivered his own historic numbers. He rushed for 22 carries, 284 yards and four touchdowns. Bowden’s rushing yardage was 16 yards shy of breaking Moe Williams’ in-game school rushing record of 299 yards set back in 1995 and is the most-ever by an SEC quarterback. His rushing yardage Saturday is the most by any SEC player and the third-most among all Division I players so far this season. His four rushing touchdowns are tied for the most in a game in UK history.

After AJ Rose’s early first quarter touchdown, Bowden got going with a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 12:43 to go in the second quarter, giving the Cats a 14-6 lead. But after Bowden was stopped on a 4th-and-1 conversion attempt just before the end of the first half, the Cats gave up a 56-yard rushing touchdown to Louisville running back Javian Hawkins with just 19 seconds left in the first half, cutting UK’s lead to 17-13. 

That certainly got Bowden’s attention and set the stage for the rest of the game.  

“I was a little frustrated that we didn’t get the 4th-and-1. At halftime, I told them in the locker to just calm down. Me and their team [Louisville] were chirping at each other and it just upset me, so I came out with a different mentality and just went from there,” Bowden said.

Whatever Bowden’s mentality was seemed to work wonders in the second half. Just 49 seconds out of the gate after halftime, Bowden exploded for a 60-yard rushing touchdown on Kroger Field’s cold, soggy turf. After walking off the field with a slight ankle tweak just minutes later, Bowden came back out even more rejuvenated. 

With 1:31 to go in the 3rd quarter, Bowden deceived the Cards’ defense again, zig-zagging and fooling defenders with a 46-yard rushing touchdown. After Chris Rodriguez ran 64-yards into the end zone almost untouched with 12:43 to go in the fourth quarter, Bowden chipped in his crowning stroke with a 32-yard rushing touchdown with just over five minutes left in the game, giving the Cats 28 unanswered points.  

With yet another school record of seven-straight starts at quarterback with over 100 rushing yards under his belt, Bowden is now sixth all-time in total rushing yards in school history with 1,297 yards. Yet, despite playing well, he credited his offensive line, calling it “the best o-line in the nation.” The Cats’ offensive line is no stranger to big rushing numbers this season, but veteran tackle Landon Young said that the Cats hit “a sweet spot” Saturday.

“Every single game, I feel like we’ve played more and more and more. We’re getting more comfortable playing next to each other and we’re learning the schemes that work best with us and Lynn. We’re learning what plays go well against what,” Young said. 

Stoops said that back in week seven, he asked offensive coordinator Eddie Gran if “he was sure” that Bowden should start at quarterback after injuries to Sawyer Smith. According to Stoops, Gran was “firm in his conviction” and Gran didn’t deny that.

“I was locked in. Sawyer wasn’t there yet. I just felt like, for our team, this was our best opportunity to win games. Everyone bought in. This was a group deal. This wasn’t just Eddie Gran’s decision,” Gran said.

UK’s 517 rushing yards are also the most by any FBS team facing an FBS team this season. The wide receiver turned-quarterback Bowden has helped lead Kentucky from the trenches of a 2-3 start, with injuries to its top two QBs, to a 7-5 regular season finish and fourth-consecutive bowl eligible season. It’s a journey that Bowden wants people to recognize.   

“We had a lot of doubters. Nobody thought we could succeed. No one thought we would even make it to a bowl game. I told y’all before that we’re a bunch of fighters. We’re never gonna give up on each other,” Bowden said.