Photo by Braxton Howard
Kentucky Football

Positives & Negatives From Kentucky's 24-20 Win Over Arkansas

October 15, 2019

Kentucky entered a pivotal bye week with a 2-3 record, after a tough three-game skid, the Wildcats needed to bounce back and improve in multiple areas on the field. They just so happened to be playing a team in very similar shoes, the Razorbacks were 2-3 coming off of a bye week as well. Kentucky pulled through after getting down 13-0 and came back to get their first conference win of the season to improve to 3-3.

The sputtering offense of the Wildcats has been the main cause of their struggles, but this game featured Lynn Bowden at quarterback. Yes, Bowden is a wide receiver, but let’s not forget he had to learn the position in his Freshman year. He had played quarterback his whole life and all through high school, and I think you saw the offense improve mid-game when they let him throw the football.

“If you don’t take it serious enough, and if you think you have all the answers, you can get in a lot of trouble out in a game. And he (Lynn Bowden) really took it serious with his footwork, exactly what his reads were, taking care of the football, how do I become a better passer, how do I do all of those things, it’s more about footwork as much as it is arm talent... He took it seriously, and he went out and performed and did a good job... He put the time in, and you could tell, he was ready.” Said quarterback coach Darin Hinshaw, following Bowden’s three-touchdown performance.

Will this be the scheme going forward will be the question, and how many of the new wrinkles will they continue to call in the game. The Wildcats had a forgettable first quarter, but they bounced back as a team and as a coaching staff. Eddie Gran’s offense seemed to improve throughout the game, and there were some questionable play calls, as well as really great schemes and creative plays. Mark Stoops bragged on the offensive staff for their patience with the gameplan and the execution after the game. 

There were some positives, but fewer negatives. Let’s get the negatives out of the way.


  • 1st Quarter
  • Run Defense
  • Penalties

I mean really, Kentucky did not have much to complain about outside of that horrendous first quarter. Slow starts have been an ugly trend with this team recently, and those cannot afford to happen as often in the upcoming weeks. They did manage to tighten things up after getting down 13-0, and they started playing well. In the first quarter, the offense lacked balance as they had 12 run plays to just one pass play. 

Whether that was a script or maybe not all but some, the balance needs to be better. When Bowden is at quarterback, they are going to always expect the run, and the pass opened it up because it forced the defense to honor it. Once Kentucky entered the second quarter, Gran became more aggressive and balanced, he did not feel reluctant to dial-up passes in certain situations.

Kentucky needs to avoid slow starts. The second play from scrimmage for the Razorbacks was a 74-yard sprint to the end zone for Hog running back, Rakeem Boyd, who is one of the better backs in the SEC. After that touchdown run, Boyd was kept in check with just 60 yards on his other 14 carries. However, the Razorbacks had success on the ground as a team averaging 6.1 yards per attempt on the ground.

With that said, Kentucky’s run defense was improved as they only allowed one 100-yard rusher, as they allowed two each against South Carolina and Mississippi State. It is hard to point where the problem lies for the run defense consistent problems, but it something Kentucky has to improve because there are a lot of run-heavy teams remaining on the schedule. Outside of that, you can really only harp on penalties, which you can always do, but seven penalties are too much to sway a close game and some of those came in timely situations that really set the Wildcats back. Those are little things the team has to clean up.


  • The Lynn Bowden Experiment
  • Creative Wrinkles
  • Schlarman’s Offensive Line
  • Third Downs & Red Zone Offense
  • The Identity of Eddie Gran’s Offense
  • Improving Young Secondary
  • Timely Team Win

Lynn Bowden was unbelievable on Saturday night. A reminiscent performance to the dynamic Randall Cobb was as a quarterback. The wide receiver turn quarterback almost give Bowden a disservice. He went 7-for-11 for 78 yards and a touchdown. I thought he really just had one throw he missed which was the wheel route to Chris Rodriguez down the sideline, which would have been a touchdown if not slightly underthrown.

Bowden was making the right reads and played a very smart football game at quarterback, which showed his experience of the position he played throughout high school. But I said it last week in my article on how Bowden could benefit the offense as a quarterback, and the biggest difference was the aspect he brings on the ground. Three beautiful wrinkles added to the offense over the bye week was the speed option, which we saw throughout the game as well as on Bowden’s first touchdown run, and the toss sweep and the play-action plays off of it with the tight end running a route over the middle. Those new schemes on the offensive side of the football really helped the offense throw off the Razorback defense.

Bowden was effective and smart in the run-pass options, which also really helped open up the passing game. But it was proven that Bowden would revamp the WIldcats running game, as they average six yards per carry on 330 yards on the ground. Of 21 total first downs for Kentucky’s offense, 15 of those came on the grounds. AJ Rose got going with 90 yards on 16 carries, and Kavosiey Smoke contributed with 45 yards on 11 attempts.

I said it last week, Kentucky’s identity on the offense has been running the football under Gran. His running schemes are ahead of his passing schemes, and he has been a running backs coach for a long time. When Gran gets the running game going is when his offense succeeds, and that proved to be true again against Arkansas. He made the defense honor the pass, and then they could not stop much after that.

A lot of that success on the ground was due to Coach John Schlarman’s offensive line, who responded after a couple of tough performances. They were getting a constant push at the point of attack, opening holes for the run game, they also gave Bowden time to throw and protected him will. Of course, Bowden’s versatility helped with that aspect too. However, whenever you can rush for over 300 yards on the ground and allow just a single sack, you can chalk that up as a solid performance for the offensive line. 

The running game was the difference, and that will need to be established in every game moving forward. Bowden offers an unreal dynamic at quarterback that can be successful, and it will be interesting to see how much we do see of that or how it might be balanced when Sawyer Smith gets back to 100%. With that said, I do believe the speed option play with Bowden is essentially like Benny Snell in the Wildcat, and a play that the offense needs to implement in the gameplan for the rest of the season, it is very lethal with Kentucky’s trio of running backs.

Where the offense finally improved was on third down, after just convert on three over the last two games. Against Arkansas, the Wildcats were a solid 7-for-13, which shows improvement in that area. Kentucky was also efficient in the red zone, getting points on three of four trips. The gameplan with Bowden at quarterback ran through the ground and opened up the pass, the balance made the whole gameplan click in a sense because they had to worry about Bowden as a passer and he was impressive in that role. 

The offense was impressive and will get the most love, but the defense played well after allowing a bad opening touchdown drive on the second play from scrimmage. But the defense starter playing well after that, and they were impressive in the second half. Arkansas was a combined 1-for-6 in the second half on third and fourth down, which is an area that has been a glaring weakness for that Kentucky defense.

In the second half, Arkansas had 14 carries for 48 yards, which is below that important four-yard per carry mark. Through the air, the Razorbacks completed 5-of-12 passes for 81 yards. Kentucky’s defense played very well in the second half, and dominated the time of possession in the third quarter, as the Wildcats had the ball for a little over 11 minutes in the third. 

Kentucky’s young secondary really has improved every week. This is an inexperienced group that had growing pains early but is quietly becoming a strength on that side of the football. Kentucky has allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the SEC, with just three on the year, and the back end has five interceptions, the Wildcats also rank fifth in the conference in terms of yards per game allowed through the air (207). Coach Steven Clinkscale and Dean Hood deserve all the credit they can get for the growth of this group, as that will be essential going forward. 

You see this entire team that carries a lot of inexperience, and they are growing every week. When we heard from the players and the coaches, throughout the week and after the game, this is a football team that really felt like they made some positive changes over the bye week and became a closer team as well. After two more games, the Wildcats will get another bye week, but this win was critical for the growth and momentum of this football team, and a win that we might look back on as the turning point of the season. They have an incredibly tough trip to Athens this week, but there are multiple winnable games that remain on the schedule.

Kentucky got back in the win column to get to .500, and the team has gained some momentum that they are trying to shock the world with this weekend. The Wildcats visit their second to last road trip of the season as they travel to face Georgia, but they will be going with momentum, which is an improvement. Kentucky needs to maintain that momentum for the remainder of the season, but we saw this team take a big step in the right direction against Arkansas. 






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Positives & Negatives From Kentucky's 24-20 Win Over Arkansas

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