Lynn Bowden is a dynamic weapon and is a serious force to be reckoned with. Still, there is no way Kentucky’s offense could have survived this season, much less won seven games, without an impressive year by UK’s offensive line. The first words out of Bowden’s mouth Saturday afternoon in his post-game interview with the SEC Network revolved around thanking his O-line. Kentucky’s most visible star wanted to shoutout one of the team’s least-visible groups.
Not only did Bowden circle back to praising his O-line during his post-game press conference, but he doubled down.
“Whenever I get rich, I’m going to take them out to dinner, and we’re going to spend as much money as they want,” Bowden told reporters. “It was all of them – the best O-line in the nation. You saw it today.”
The O-line wanted to give that same love back to Bowden after the win.
“We’ve got a great guy behind us – Lynn made it easy for us,” Logan Stenberg said. “We just opened up some holes and he took it for the yards. It’s easy blocking for a guy like that.”
Bowden certainly took advantage of that, collecting 284 rushing yards against Louisville, good for the most ever by an SEC quarterback. He was patient in the pocket, his fast footwork was stellar and he’s as tough as they come. But 284 yards by Bowden and 517 total yards on the ground? That’s not possible without an incredible performance by the offensive line. Bowden wasn’t the only Wildcat who wanted to give those guys the recognition they deserve.
“I am going to have to take those boys out,” Chris Rodriguez said. “Those guys are good. Shout out to them; they are great. They aren’t good, they’re great.”
Coach Mark Stoops said he’d put the line’s performance against Louisville “right up there” with the best outings he’s seen.
“They have done some really good things and they took great pride in that,” Stoops added. “They really have embraced that – the opportunity to know that right now we have to be very one-dimensional, and that it’s on their shoulders, as well. I say Lynn, but it’s right on theirs, as well.”
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) November 30, 2019
For the second week in a row, Kentucky’s offense set a school record, this time earning 521 yards of total offense. That’s good enough to replace last week’s 461-yard record-breaking outing. Before the UT Martin game, the record had stood since 1951.
“We’re excited [about the record-breaking performances] because that’s a testament to how hard the offensive line works and how hard those guys in the backfield work,” Landon Young said. “It’s good for us to know we can put the game down. Even if they have a whole week to prepare for what we do, we’re still going to do it to them.”
The “Big Blue Wall” doesn’t usually get the respect they should, but the Cardinals certainly took notice. Louisville’s head coach said his team was “worn down by [Kentucky’s] offensive line.”
“I think they kind of dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half and I think that was obviously the difference in the game,” Scott Satterfield said in his post-game remarks. “I think for them, it starts up front. Their offensive line is very, very good. Solid, one of the better lines we’ve faced this year. They work well together, they’re big [and] they’re strong.”
“They’re up there with the best [offensive] lines we’ve played all season,” GG Robinson, one of Louisville’s senior defensive linemen, added after the game. “There were way more missed tackles than missed assignments. They took the D-Line out of the game. The way they blocked, the three interior D-Linemen really couldn’t make any of the plays. I’ll have to watch the film, but I definitely know it was way more missed tackles. If you want to win a game, you can’t have that many missed tackles.”
As for UK’s o-linemen themselves, they were just doing their jobs.
“Coach Schlarman preaches hard work and discipline everyday, and we go out there and we try to execute that,” Stenberg said. “We did that pretty well today. It’s all because of Coach Schlarman.”
— John Schlarman (@CoachSchlarman) November 30, 2019
That, of course, is the same Coach Schlarman who has been coaching while also receiving cancer treatments since his diagnosis in the summer of 2018. Even this season, Schlarman has undergone procedures, then quickly returned to the sideline to coach up his unit. That dedication has paid dividends for the Cats.
The Wildcats’ offensive line has already been named one of ten semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which honors the nation’s best O-line. The Kentucky and Washington lines are the only semifinalists playing for teams currently ranked outside of the top-20.
At least for Landon Young, who was born in Grayson County and attended high school at Lexington’s Lafayette, it all boils down to Bluegrass pride.
“Knowing that I wear Kentucky across my chest is the reason I came here. Just being able to be raised here and to see the crowd and the emotions they have along with our team, it’s just a huge pride thing,” Young said. “I’m not gonna go out and let somebody else in the state walk into our territory and punish us. We’ve got to be able to go and punish them. It’s not a city we have on our jersey – it’s a state.”
Against Louisville, and throughout this season, the offensive line has made that same state very proud.