Lynn Bowden knew he was going to have a big day before the sun started to rise on Saturday morning.
“I just woke up very early, 6 or 7 o’clock, take my normal shower and just something today felt like we needed to shock the world,” the sophomore wide receiver said.
That must’ve been some kind of shower.
Bowden woke up a struggling Kentucky offense with a career night of 166 yards receiving on 13 catches, and he had a punt return for a touchdown that helped spark the No. 12 Cats to the 15-14 victory at Missouri.
As UK’s offense had slogged through two quarters, the halftime locker room felt tight. Bowden found running back Benny Snell.
“Lynn was real close to me saying that he’s got me,” the junior said. “He said, ‘I’ve got you, I’ve got you.’ And I was like, ‘I know.’ Everything came together.”
Bowden repeated similar things to his UK teammates as they got back on the field at Memorial Stadium.
“When I came out at halftime, I said, ‘I’m going to put you boys on my back. I just need y’all to bear with me,’” Bowden recalled. “We’re going to do this thing.”
Everywhere he went, Bowden was like a calming force, even getting in Coach Mark Stoops’ ear, too.
The sophomore had noticed openings on the punt return that he couldn’t stop thinking about them. Normally the backup on punt return, he knew it was his time.
“He told me, ‘I’m going in on punt return,’” Stoops recalled. “I said ‘Go do your thing.’ He went in on the punt return, got an unbelievable block and scored.”
With five minutes to go, Bowden took his first-ever college punt return 67 yards for a touchdown that put UK within striking distance.
Stoops has coached for a long time. He knows every player on offense wants the ball in his hands at big moments. But there was something different about Bowden on Saturday.
“There’s some times there’s just a sheer desire in that guy’s eyes that he’s going to do it,” Stoops said. “That’s what he had today. He’s just an unbelievable competitor and made tough plays all night.
“No environment is too big for him. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s not perfect but he’s going to go play. What he did was special.”
Bowden was quietly confident after the victory, too.
“I wasn’t going home with an ‘L,’” he said. “We couldn’t go home with (a loss). We couldn’t do it. We’ve come too far. We’ve prepared too hard. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder.”
No. 6 Georgia at No. 11 Kentucky
3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)