Bowden shines in UK starting quarterback debut


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the UK vs Arkansas football game on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 24-20. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Doing what Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden did Saturday night against Arkansas certainly is not an easy thing to do, but he sure did make it look easy.

After playing wide receiver for the Cats the past two-and-a-half seasons, the junior stepped up and started at quarterback for Kentucky—his first time playing the position in college other than taking snaps in the Wildcat formation.

Bowden was a quarterback in high school and finished his senior season throwing for 1,366 yards, rushing for 2,277 yards and is credited for 57 total touchdowns. He’s used to playing the position, so Bowden felt comfortable enough stepping up for his team. In the 24-20 win against the Razorbacks, Bowden went 7-11 for 78 passing yards, and led the team in rushing with 196 of Kentucky’s 330 total yards on the ground. 

“There’s some things you can’t forget,” Bowden said. “You’ve got to be fundamentally sound just to keep a rhythm and I think Coach Hinshaw got me prepared very well.”

Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw complimented Bowden on how hard he’s worked the past two weeks since the South Carolina game and mentioned that he “totally bought in” to the idea of playing quarterback full-time.

Hinshaw said Bowden was watching extra film, showing up to quarterback meetings early, asking a lot of questions and taking notes to prepare for the position switch. 

“It was so enjoyable the past few weeks just having him in the room and him engaged, continually absorbing, and learning the position of quarterback,” Hinshaw said. 

He noted how difficult it is to switch positions mid-season and that Bowden took all the right steps in his preparation. 

“If you don’t take it serious enough, if you think you have all the answers, you can get in a lot of trouble out in the game,” Hinshaw said.

Sawyer Smith, Kentucky’s original backup to the injured Terry Wilson, has been banged up and wasn’t deemed 100 percent. Throughout the week leading up to the matchup against the Razorbacks, there was no indication that Bowden would be Kentucky’s starter.

It was expected that Bowden would be taking snaps, but Bowden wasn’t announced as the Cats’ QB1 until right before the game started. It’s not his first rodeo being the signal caller, so he said his main worry throughout the week was just keeping the secret that he’d be starting. 

“What I was really worried about was just the secret getting out,” Bowden said. “You can ask any of my teammates, just this whole week I was so excited. They were like, ‘what is he so happy for?’ I was just excited.”

Being named as a new starting quarterback after playing wide receiver your whole collegiate career has its own pressures in itself, but adding to that was Kentucky’s three-game losing streak. The Cats had yet to win an SEC game, so the win against Arkansas gave them what they needed heading into Georgia week. 

“Short-term memory loss on those three losses,” Bowden said. “It happened, we’ve got to live with it. So in that bye week, it clicked for us. I think everybody started to realize that we’ve got to get back to the way we play football and I think we did this week.”

Despite Bowden’s monster performance, Hinshaw knows there’s several things Bowden can improve on if they keep him at quarterback. One of those is his footwork, which are much different patterns than he’s used to at wide receiver. Hinshaw says they can get “more and more complicated” with the route patterns as Bowden becomes more comfortable at the position, which they’ll continue to work on in practice. It helps, though, that Bowden is so used to the Kentucky offense, and Hinshaw described him as “extremely smart.”

Even after their loss, Arkansas’ players were complimentary of Bowden taking over a new role. 

“He makes the right plays at the right moment,” Arkansas linebacker De’Jon Harris said. “He is a great athlete and a hell of a player. We knew what was going to be expected, especially with him as quarterback. We just didn’t stop him when it was needed.”

The UK coaching staff expressed there’s still uncertainty when it comes to who they’ll go with next week against Georgia, but that it helps knowing Bowden can definitely be an option if they decide to go with him as the starter. 

“I think it’s huge,” Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “It’s huge for coaching staff, and I think for our players. To build around that and move forward. I think there’s a lot of stuff we can do with this to really, really mess with defenses.”