UK Coach Mark Stoops said he had no issue with the call that led to star freshman Lynn Bowden’s ejection early in the Wildcats’ 27-16 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
The top-ranked signee in UK’s 2017 recruiting class was thrown out of the game in the first quarter after being called for targeting while throwing a block on quarterback Stephen Johnson’s 34-yard run.
Bowden was ejected after the video review, the Cats were assessed a 15-yard penalty, and Johnson’s big run was called back.
“I would agree with them,” Stoops said of the officials’ decision. “It’s just unfortunate. It was nothing malicious. He tried to lead with his shoulder. He tried to hit the shoulder.”
Bowden ducked in with his shoulder to make the block on an Eastern Kentucky defender, but there was some minimal contact with the head, too.
“He really tried to make a good block,” Stoops said. “He did make some contact. It wasn’t a lot. It wasn’t a brutal hit or anything like that, but if you make any contact on head to head, they’re going to call that on an unprotected player.”
It was a disappointing home debut for Bowden, who made waves last weekend after a series of tweets seemingly voicing displeasure with his lack of playing time in the Cats’ season-opening victory at Southern Miss.
Stoops said he had “no issue” with the freshman’s tweets, and Bowden was the first Wildcat to touch the ball in Saturday’s game against Eastern Kentucky, returning the game’s opening kickoff 30 yards.
Bowden also had a 21-yard kickoff return later in the first quarter, and Stoops said the UK coaching staff was hoping to get the dynamic playmaker more involved in the Wildcats’ offensive attack Saturday.
“It was unfortunate more than anything,” he said. “You saw he had some touches on the kick returns, and we really wanted to get him going. It stinks for him. I felt bad. It was just an honest mistake, and we talk about it all the time with peel-back blocks.
“You always want to peel back and take somebody out. You can’t do that any more.”
Bowden was not available for interviews after the game.
The ejection will not carry a mandatory suspension for next weekend’s game at South Carolina, and Stoops said after Saturday’s game that he agrees with the rule to limit head-to-head contact, even if there’s no ill intent.
“Honestly, I agree with it,” he said. “We gotta get the head injuries out of the game as much as possible, and I think it’s really helped.”