It took longer than most would like, but Kentucky’s offense finally started spreading the ball around the field.
After one half, Terry Wilson had completed 5-of-7 pass attempts. Before the game was finished, Wilson connected with eight different receivers. It was quite a change of pace in the second half.
“They made some competitive catches. And again, I think later in the game when we were just settling in running our offense, throwing it, drop-back pass, we were efficient. That’s why late in the game we were trying to throw more as well. Just to get Terry comfortable,” Mark Stoops said. “He missed some throws, but that’s why we went back at it and kept on throwing it, and then he made some very good throws.”
Wilson started one fourth quarter drive by bouncing one off the turf in the direction of Josh Ali. Less than three minutes later Wilson hit Ali for a score, UK’s second in that timeframe. In a short amount of time, Kentucky’s offense found its rhythm.
“We wanted to get the ball down the field. We talked about being more explosive,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “It was a good opportunity to get better throwing the ball. It was our opportunity to see if you can throw and catch.
Wilson proved he could throw it, completing 19-of-26 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He didn’t have to rely exclusively on one receiver either. Ahmad Wagner, Allen Dailey, Keaton Upshaw and A.J. Rose all had more than one reception. The best catch of the day came from Bryce Oliver on a 32-yard touchdown reception.
Bowden finished with a team-high six receptions, but he was happy to see others get in the action because it helps him.
“(It’s) Way easier. They can’t just play me double-team. It’s spreads the field,” he said.
“Our receiving corps, our tight end corps and our running backs, we can do anything,” said tight end Justin Rigg. “With so many targets, it’s hard for defenses to know who we’re going to go to. They can’t really double one person because in they do, we have another target.”
The wide receivers proved they’re playmakers. Not only does their emergence make Bowden’s job easier, it spreads the field for the play-caller. He just wishes they would’ve have let it rip sooner.
“It forces defenses to defend the whole field, first of all,” Eddie Gran added.
“I was really proud of them. We could have attacked it more early, probably waited too long to attack it, but I was excited the way those receivers caught the ball well, made some contested catches. The big guy out there, it’s hard to cover him. You get some PIs on him. Rigg in the red zone, we throw him the ball up there and the guy is just pulling him down. Terry threw a great ball and we got the PI. Those are the things we gotta work on to keep those matchups for us in our favor.”
For the first time in a long time, Kentucky’s wide receivers won one-on-one matchups and did not drop a pass. The Kentucky offense will not look the same with more explosive, young playmakers being targeted all over the field.