UK Football

Kentucky, with Lynn Bowden at quarterback, ends 3-game losing streak

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Game day: Kentucky vs. Arkansas

Click below for more of’s coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky-Arkansas football game at Kroger Field in Lexington.

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The third quarterback was the charm for Kentucky.

UK defeated Arkansas, 24-20, to end a three-game losing streak and earn its first win over a Southeastern Conference program this season.

As speculated by many leading up to the game, wide receiver Lynn Bowden made his first career start at quarterback in place of Sawyer Smith, who played through multiple injuries in his last two starts.

Smith was listed as the No. 1 quarterback on UK’s depth chart entering the week. Head coach Mark Stoops told the UK Radio Network in pregame that Smith wasn’t at 100 percent but was available if needed.

He wasn’t: Bowden rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and finished 7-for-11 passing for 78 yards and a TD. He twice led come-from-behind drives on Saturday.

It didn’t take long for Arkansas to get on the board: Rakeem Boyd rushed for a 74-yard touchdown on its second play from scrimmage. UK (3-3, 1-3 SEC) failed to respond right away; the Cats drove into Razorbacks territory but a holding penalty by Josh Ali negated a first down and kept them from moving deeper.

Jamar “Boogie” Watson forced a third-down fumble on Arkansas’ next drive. The Hogs recovered but punted; a fair catch was fumbled by Ali but recovered by the Wildcats. They quickly gave the ball back; Bowden fumbled on a hand-off to A.J. Rose and it was recovered by Arkansas at UK’s 33-yard line. UK’s defense forced a 28-yard field goal, which put the Hogs up 10-0 as the second quarter got underway.

Kentucky on its next drive got into Arkansas territory again but a snap infraction by Drake Jackson turned a third-and-2 into a third-and-7, and Bowden failed to gain a yard on a rush from the Arkansas 29. A 47-yard field goal attempt by Matt Ruffolo was wide left.

Arkansas tacked on another field goal, this one from 44 yards out, on its next drive, one extended by a questionable pass-interference flag against Jamari Brown on a third-and-3 pass. Kentucky finally put points on the board soon after, marching 75 yards for a Bowden touchdown, snapping a streak of two games without a first-half TD.

Ruffolo converted a 50-yard field goal after UK strung together a six-minute, 13-play drive to open the second half. Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks was wide open on a third-and-4 pass on the Razorbacks’ next trip but Nick Starkel failed to hit the right spot; Ali returned the subsequent punt 18 yards to UK’s 37-yard line but the Cats went three-and-out.

They forced a three-and-out of their own before a couple of false-start penalties forced Arkansas to punt from its end zone. Bowden for the first time in the game came on for a return but was stopped where he caught it, at the Hogs’ 48-yard line.

Two Bowden rushes totaled 15 yards before Rose ripped off a 20-yard scamper. Bowden completed a pass to Clevan Thomas for no gain and rushed 3 yards before hitting Thomas in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard TD, putting Kentucky ahead for the first time at 17-13.

Ben Hicks, Arkansas’ backup quarterback, took over on its next drive, which ended at midfield. UK afterward was pinned inside its own 5-yard line and didn’t go anywhere; Max Duffy’s third punt of the night was fielded in Razorbacks territory but a missed tackle by Jamin Davis allowed Burks to advance it to UK’s 29.

Burks continued to be a firestarter: he picked up 11 yards off a lateral toss after briefly looking to pass and right after that caught a 15-yard pass. A pass interference call against Brandin Echols set Arkansas up at the 2-yard line, from where Boyd scored his second TD to put the Hogs back in front, 20-17.

Kentucky answered with another 75-yard TD drive, this one taking just six plays. It featured three runs of 20-plus yards: a 25-yarder by Kavosiey Smoke, a 27-yarder by Rose and a 24-yard scoring run by Bowden that put the Wildcats up for good.

Arkansas had an opportunity to go ahead — it moved 60 yards to UK’s 15-yard line — but a sack by Calvin Taylor Jr. and a hurry by T.J. Carter on the last two downs penned the Hogs.

Next game

Kentucky at No. 3 Georgia

3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS) OR 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)

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Josh Moore is in his first year covering the University of Kentucky football team and in his fifth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore, a Martin County native, graduated from UK with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English in 2013. He’s a huge fan of the NBA, Power Rangers and country music.