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Why UK Rolled with Lynn Bowden instead of trying Sawyer Smith

Sawyer Smith’s only snap was a quarterback sneak, a crucial play on the first series that converted a fourth down and ultimately led to a Kentucky touchdown. Aside from that one play, Kentucky’s offense was all Bowden Ball.

Why did UK almost exclusively run with Bowden? The answer to that question is complicated.

First and foremost, Kentucky’s first offensive possession with Bowden at quarterback was a masterpiece. A 17-play, 75-yard drive that took 10:18, it was the longest scoring possession in terms of plays and time since Mark Stoops became UK’s head coach.

Kentucky’s offense moved the ball well against a good Tennessee defense. They had trouble when it was time to score, as Stoops explained Monday morning.

“Every week we look at the best opportunity to win and you look at a big portion of that game and you just look at the drive chart, it frustrated or baffles all of us in how you lose a game like that. But you look at the possessions and where we went, we had one three-and-out all day. We had one three-and-out all day and that’s the first possession of the second half,” Stoops said.

“After that we only had three more drives. We drive it for nine plays, ends on downs. We drive it for another nine plays starting from our own five-yard line and goes all the way into Tennessee territory again and overcome a holding call that was essentially a 22-yard swing and end on downs again there. Then the last drive, you take it 12 plays and end up on the 2-yard line. So, that’s tough to answer, right?”

In total, Kentucky reached Tennessee territory in seven of their nine offensive possessions. Bowden Ball worked well, until the Cats reached ‘no man’s land’ around the Tennessee 35-yard line, too far to kick a field goal and too close to punt. On the first drive of the game, going for it on fourth down worked twice. It failed on the next three attempts, including the potential game-winner at the two-yard line.

“Put yourself in these shoes, because that is a lot of good against a good defensive team. It is just a matter of finding some explosive plays. But it is a balance and something to think about. It is hard when you only have nine possessions in a game. It is a lot easier after the fact to say, ‘Hey, give Sawyer (Smith) three series.’ But every play and every series is so important and again with Lynn (Bowden) we have been very effective and we’ve been moving the football.” 

To put it simply, Kentucky’s margin of error decreased significantly following Terry Wilson’s injury. Sawyer Smith could have entered the game to run UK’s base offense, but if it didn’t work, there goes a third of the Cats’ offensive possessions.

“The efficiency was pretty darn good. So that is a tough balance right there. It’s a fair question and it’s hard to do. Put it like this, the last three drives – nine plays, nine plays, 12 plays.” If just one of those ends in a touchdown, we aren’t having this discussion. If he put in Smith for just one drive and it failed, Stoops is right: “You’re sitting here calling me a compete idiot.”

Kentucky had every chance to win. They just were a few plays away from a victory.

“This is at least the second time this year where I come in here and we are talking about a play here and a play there. That is our job to find that, our job to do it. Felt like our guys, again, competed extremely well and we had an opportunity to win in a game like that,” said Stoops.

“That is the key, as we all know, that comes down to winning and losing, converting one of those at the end.”


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

65 Comments for Why UK Rolled with Lynn Bowden instead of trying Sawyer Smith

  1. Catfan4life-original
    6:57 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Sorry…not buying it. We need more options and Bowden’s strength is not passing. That game shouldn’t have come down to a few plays. We are the much better team compared to UT when we aren’t one dimensional. I love Bowden but he cannot do it all. Mix it up with Smith.

    • syrin23
      10:48 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      It’s worse than that. This is terrible for Bowden. He will NEVER make it to the NFL as a QB, and he lost a year as a WR to prove he can be an NFL caliber WR. What a waste of a player and waste of a top 30 defense.

  2. JPGott2
    7:01 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    First off, Tennessee is TERRIBLE! The fact he UK has lost to 3 garbage teams this year and the staff makes excuse after excuse, blows me away.

    UK was up 13-0 and did nothing after. Grab has zero variety and every crap team knows it.

    I am not saying stopping the Bowden offense all together, but not opening up any sort of pass offense lets teams do just what UT did and load the box. Heck, not going 4 wide the last few plays to thin the box when our line was struggling because it was stacked, blew me away. Even the commentators were criticizing it.

    Don’t even get me started on the 4th and 3 bomb Bowden threw that was not even close.

    UK has a coach that gets top-25 money without the expectation. I say that as a Stoops fan (not Gran).

    The comments would be very different if we were
    Playing a top-25 team.

    Win the next 3 and you will regain the base. They are all junk.

    • BowdenQB4ever
      7:10 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      He doesn’t have answers, just coach speak. I agree it’s limp, I agree he’s paid too well for that performance and explanation, but it is what it is. He won’t change.

    • Bobby.allen
      7:42 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      I thought his one play was a handoff?

    • Willis talkin bout....
      8:49 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Simple question. Why can t we have both Smith and Bowden in the game at the same time. Hell. Give Bowden snaps and running back with an RPO option. I’d rather have Bowden at RB than Rose up the middle.

  3. Ridge Runner
    7:14 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Look I understand mistakes happen including lack of judgment. But it’s really not that complicated although a spin can make anything look complicated. Sawyer could have entered any series to at least try throwing the ball. May not have worked but when you have to try something… try it. What your currently doing permits no fear of passing. Make them adjust.

    • Ridge Runner
      7:16 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Our staff is either not thinking or over thinking.

    • RAGE
      9:20 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Honest question here… Have you ever heard a coach try so hard to convince everyone that they are making the right decisions.. I mean every time Stoops talks he tries to tell us how he makes every decision.. He looks really insecure and makes himself look really stupid.. I mean I have never seen another coach make more excuses and try so hard to explain why he is right… The more Stoops speaks the farther off the bandwagon I fall off… Honestly I am really getting to the point I can’t stand to hear him speak and the excuses are just really getting old.. I rather hear a coach just be honest

    • dcforuk
      9:43 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      He would get fired if he told you what he really thought of you!

    • dcforuk
      9:43 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      I did expect more from you RR, though.

    • syrin23
      10:47 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      There are LITERALLY intramural football teams at UK with more advanced offenses than this team. Let them run the offense. Can’t score less.

    • dcforuk
      12:48 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      Go watch them then, please! Don’t be the smoker who complains about smoking!

  4. zoupman
    7:18 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Load of crap, I’m not buying it and you shouldn’t be trying to sell it. No way at some point in the game a QB shouldn’t have played QB for at least a series.
    Stoops does many things well, but he is horrible at how he handles the QB position.

  5. Swizzle
    7:19 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Hard headedness and stupidity

  6. Smyrna_Cat
    7:22 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Let this dead horse die.

    • dcforuk
      9:51 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      I think it’s like the Murray St Racer Horse “violet cactus” that died years ago. Word has it that Violet was buried next to the football field but the hole wasn’t big enough because of rock and/or landfill scrap and its legs were sawed off.

      Today’s posts are getting me all pissed off at a bunch of knuckleheads again just like Saturday night. I guess the horse was killed Saturday night, the hole dug on Sunday and the horses’ legs sawed off this evening.

      Please someone just fill in the hole and move on!

  7. Slam242424
    7:22 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    You have to chuckle at the earlier KSR post citing 2 wide receivers coming back soon.

    We only throw passes per game now so what difference does the return of 2 receivers make. Hell, we could line up concession stand workers on slots and it wouldn’t help nor hurt.

    KSR has to be cautious not to downgrade the coaching staff too much or they’ll stop appearing on podcasts or KSR as guests.

    I’m a true blue fan, but having a QB transfer in just to burn his last year of eligibility behind a WR when the starter goes down, albeit our to offensive threat, is just sad.

    • Slam242424
      7:23 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      We only throw FOUR passes per game I meant to add.

    • dave1964
      7:32 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Will be lucky to have one receiver on this team next year, this coaching staff is FULL of one thing excuses. They know they look stupid for not giving Smith a shot when we couldn’t move the ball in the second half so they come up with this CRAP.

    • Cole28
      8:11 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Smith came in with two years of eligibility.

  8. stringmusic78
    7:28 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    I’m not impressed by Sawyer Smith but at some point during the UT game I would have given him a shot.

    I’m quite sure the coaching staff had a problem with Smith making a few poor decisions that led to turnovers so given their history of playing “not to lose” they thought it best to stay with Bowden but at some point you choose the upside and go with a guy that can get it downfield.

    Poor coaching to see the offensive ineptitude and not make a change.

  9. Larkin123
    7:31 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    But that’s the problem if you knew we were having red zone problems and we were putting up the points try something else. Mix it up. Third and 12 with Bowden for example

  10. BlueWho
    7:31 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Is it true Tn has an old UK coach who knew the play signals?

    • stringmusic78
      7:40 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      I think the drunk that was asleep in the parking lot knew what play was coming

    • RAGE
      9:10 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Lol that is hilarious and most truthful statement ever.. Post of the year stringmusic78

  11. VirginiaCat
    7:40 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    I think the 4th and 3 play tells you everything you need to know about the coaching staff. As Ridge Runner quipped, you have to wonder if they were overthinking or not thinking at all.

    • T-Town Cat
      9:00 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      “If it had worked, you would have loved it.”

    • mashburnfan1
      10:08 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      T Town it never had a chance. We went to the side we only had 2 blockers, not the side where we had 4. Yes that has worked earlier but it was off the counter and Lynn cutting back to weak side. Look at the 2 guys that came right up unblocked, 1 took CRod and 1 took Lynn. Plus their DE was lined up too far out for Kinnard to get outside him and block so he was there at Lynn. Anyone could see before the snap going that way was not going to work, well I guess everyone but Gran.

  12. Jesus H. Chrysler
    8:01 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    He’s horrible at recruiting QBs & Kickers.

  13. largoky
    8:10 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Well, we tried to use the same 3 plays we used to beat the dirty vols with Roark, so there’s that. Just wait how pissed off we will all be when vandy figures out the “magic formula” to beat us. Just fast forward to next year, please. I think our coaches already have.

  14. Southky
    8:32 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Wow! Stoops is really gonna roll with this one dimensional offense where every team knows what is coming on every play. Is this worth what the university is paying him?

  15. Bluebloodtoo
    8:40 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Pretty sure I said that exact thing in another post.

  16. JPhelps
    8:44 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Soooo many words Roush…

    You could have just said, “Gran blew it, he sucks!” And been more accurate than the spin you tried to pull with that.

    Not buying what you’re selling.

  17. tdub
    9:08 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Drew is the only one that calls like he sees it. Rest of em got their head up coaches arse.

    • dcforuk
      9:29 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Nothing is impossible for the person (I mean the fan) that doesn’t have to do it!

  18. ukhighflyer
    9:11 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Okay we rolled with Bowden he’s done some great things. Not it’s time to roll with a real QB that can throw more than 2 routes

  19. dcforuk
    9:27 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Good color by Stoops and reinforces what I shared Saturday night…….there are bad decisions and good decisions that don’t work. That color he shared does support good decisions that just didn’t work.

  20. RAGE
    9:33 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    Beau Allen somewhere right now should read this article and run as far away from this coaching staff as he can…. Stoops ain’t going to play a passing QB.. Then after we lose tell us all how we almost won that one…

  21. dcforuk
    9:40 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    I need to stop reading these posts. If the criticism is so justified of the coaching staff then the criticism of you knuckleheads that think you know better how to coach and actually run the entire football program (which is more than just coaching) is that much more deserved. You are the definition of MMQBs! Who gives Kentucky the best chance to win a quarterback? Lynn Bowden does. You hear coaches all the time talking about which quarterback gets the reps in practice leading up to games. I really think that Bowden is right……just pick another pro program to cheer for. Seriously! Most of you all are the ones that got your head up your backside!

    • mashburnfan1
      10:14 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      disagree dc. Smith or Gilmore is our best chance as it would open up the running game more {if we throw a couple deep passes each game} and it gets Bowden at WR where he can score, punt return where he can score and KR where he can score or get tons of yardage. I would rather have Bowden with those chances and our RB’s not always facing 8 in the box. Look what Smith did for 3 quarters vs a very good UF team, had us up 21-10 and played well. They say he was hurt the other 2 games yet they decided to throw 35 times per game and he looked bad but he must have been hurt to not even be an option those next couple games.Plus it has been 6 weeks or so since TW went down, why not have Gilmore ready by now. Gives us run/pass threat and leaves Bowden with all those other opportunities.

    • RAGE
      11:12 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

      Agree Mashburn very well said… I have said a lot the last couple of days… I have never posted this much but just aggravated… but what you just said is exactly what I am thinking… I know a certain person is all blue and I am too but as a fan we should all be frustrated with what we have witnesse and you last comment is spot on

    • dcforuk
      12:08 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      I disagree. AG is way too young. Not a viable option compared to LB at all. SS was injured but also revealed his limited experience. SS may be an option but LB is the “best” option

    • dcforuk
      12:47 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      BTW – disappointed in you, too, Mashburn! Your shoulders aren’t as strong as Stoops’. You caved!

    • Matt10
      7:35 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      DC, It’s so old and tired to listen to people say you can’t criticize because you’re not a coach! By that logic you can’t competently criticize a house design if you’re not an architect. You can’t say food tastes bad if you’re not a chef. If you’ve watched football for 40 years you just might be able to tell the difference between good and bad. It ain’t rocket science. Some folks just like to vent. KSR already has a resident comment hall monitor and doesn’t need more. Just let folks get it off their chests for Christs sake.

    • makeitstop
      8:56 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      Mash I wish I’d read ur post first, it would’ve saved me writing mine. Bear Bryant turned Babe Parilli into a QB in less time than they have had to groom Gilmore. Taught him timing w a piano player in Alumni Gym. Did it when OSU stole our actual QB and it’s all he had. Mark, no more excuses, or alibis, u hv 2 healthy QBs, pick one and let Lynn be the great receiver he is, and a genuine triple threat as a runner, receiver and returner.

    • dcforuk
      10:42 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      I am doing the exact same thing to you all that you are doing to the coaches. I don’t think there is any seeking first to understand the circumstances and then to be understood. I am applying the exact same logic. I think many are upset with me because pressing teams din’t like to be pressed!

    • dcforuk
      11:41 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      Reasonable venting is ok. There is little to zero seeking to understand that is the problem. Bashing and venting are two different things.

    • Jester
      9:54 am November 13, 2019 Permalink

      dcforuk don’t ever change, don’t stop fighting. Keep waving that banner of mediocrity till these guys all accept sub-par coaching as happily as you do!!

  22. Collie
    10:30 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    The offensive play calling is all on Eddie Gran. Eddie gran being the offensive play caller is on mark stoops. Mark stoops has been a good, if not great, recruiter of players. He has been a horrible recruiter of offensive coordinators. His first one was his best and they should have paid he him whatever it took to keep him from leaving to Troy.

  23. brizzy-brax
    11:20 pm November 11, 2019 Permalink

    I still don’t understand why sawyer didn’t go out there and pass the dang ball, we strickly lost that game due to bad coaching. It’s simply we can’t score

  24. ukcatfan15
    12:54 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Smith ran 1 play all game. QB sneak on 4th down to start the game. We only needed him one other play. For a QB sneak on 3rd and 1 to win the game. Very frustrating because Stoops was perfect that drive running the clock down and leaving no time for UT.

  25. kjd
    7:26 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Our offense is not working great because we have extended drives. The number of plays don’t count for points. Offense is working when you score points. Coach, you called it, “complete idiot” is now in the conservation.

    • makeitstop
      8:33 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      How much would it cost to change the scoreboards to show time of possession instead of points? Think we can get the rest of the SEC to go along?

  26. notFromhere
    8:25 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Tennessee would have stopped us with Smith at QB. It wouldn’t have been close. I like the young man, but without Wagner and a DTQB back there, we’re not dimensional enough.

    A shortened field is what hurt us. We needed to score from the 10 or 15. Tennessee’s plan on D was to keep us in front of them. Bend but don’t break. Perfect plan against us with Lynn @ QB until they get him dialed in on intermediate and deep routes.

    With Wilson or Gatewwod, we wouldn’t have lost to anyone on the schedule this seaaon (as long as we took care of the ball). If we want to keep from losing any more, we NEED to get Lynn, or Amani in there with Lynn flexing at WR/RB, so we have someone who can pass downfield.

    Having a passing option beyond 15 yards is critical to win these games.

    Even so, this game was AWESOME from our offensive standpoint! We are on the edge of winning an East title. Just got to remove a few rough edges from the last pieces to the puzzle. THAT’S IT! If you’re not seeing that, you’re not looking or football is hieroglyphics to you

    • makeitstop
      8:40 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      When u say dual threat, what’s the other thing? Great runner, then what? And it’s easy to say we’d beat every team on here with a better QB, bc it’s unprovable but also very unlikely. The line would have been just as bad at MSU for example, and UGa is far better than we are with or without Terry who was rated 12th in the SEC bf the season. Sawyer is a QB. He can run or pass. That, technically is more of a DTQB than Lynn who’s a great competitor, tough kid, amazing running QB but a dual threat he is not as that interception showed. And if u think the coaches are such good judges of talent, didn’t they admit as much by being gun shy after the INT? It lingered, he said. Translation: yea, we know he can’t throw so we keep it on the ground and pray the defense misses some tackles. Not good enough (as our record indicates conclusively.)

    • Jester
      9:57 am November 13, 2019 Permalink

      Awesome from an offensive standpoint? Are you serious? We scored 13 points THE ENTIRE GAME. We didn’t score a single point after the first quarter!!

      Explain how that’s an awesome offense, much less one that will win the SEC East??

  27. makeitstop
    8:31 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Stoops’ argument is like Max Smart: missed it THAT much! Ok, but if u had an actual offense not a playground operation, u wouldn’t have needed a 4th and 3 to win, u were 2 or 3 TDS better if we just ran the offense we had against Florida, still our best 3 quarters of football this year. A top 10 team. We dominated until the curse returned in the 4th. So this fallacy of “it was working” bc we didn’t punt is absurd. UT’s spin is “sure we gave up a lot of yards but we bent and didn’t break and if they want to spend 40 minutes grinding between the 20’s what do we care, they can’t score?” Who is right? Well UT got the W with a team not as good as ours and a 3rd string QB much of the game so I’d say they were right, Mark. Man up and admit it: we don’t have an offense we have a clock eating gimmick to keep the score low and pray for a breakdown on the last drive. That’s never going to do it in this league.

    • kjd
      9:08 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

      Sawyer Smith was the QB against Florida. That was our best football….you just said it.

  28. BluKudzu
    9:56 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    The coaches have decided to mail it in. Either that or they are just incompetent.

    Will somebody please tell me what the QB coach responsibilities are?

    How much does he get paid?

    Back to the Joker days…..rated behind Louisville and Western again.

  29. dcforuk
    11:38 am November 12, 2019 Permalink

    I am just glad that Mitch did not listen to all of you after the first 2 to 3 years of the stoops regime!

    • Jester
      10:02 am November 13, 2019 Permalink

      Just think, if he had we might not be in such good shape. I mean look at us, we’re 4-5 this year!! Who would have thought we could be winning 4 games a year with a coach that has only had 7 years to get us to that point? That’s almost a .500 season!
      I mean he’s actually got us at 2-5 in the SEC East. Good God if Alabama loses Nick Saban we may as well start looking for a new coach immediately, because Stoops is a lock for that job!

  30. catsby90.1
    12:01 pm November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Why aren’t we under center on the 2 yd line? Qb sneak worked once earlier in the game, why not do it that close to the goal line? Gran is killing me and this team

  31. coal miner
    12:15 pm November 12, 2019 Permalink

    Bad coaching that’s all you can matter how you spin it.

  32. Wildcat homer
    8:05 pm November 12, 2019 Permalink

    It came down to the last play of the game and we lost. That really hurts but to second guess play calling is ignorant