With about 20 seconds left to play and Kentucky’s 24-20 win over Arkansas finally tucked away at Kroger Field, the huge screens at either end of the field morphed from video of the game to a graphic of Jared Lorenzen.
The artwork included an action shot of the former UK quarterback, as well as an even larger image of his face, as though it was looking down on the field where he played so outrageously well.
The night’s game had been dedicated to the former Wildcat, who died all too young earlier this year. But it was only fitting that on an evening dedicated to a player with skills that matched his appetite, a multi-faceted QB stole the show.
Lynn Bowden had figured to take some snaps against the Razorbacks, but to hear Mark Stoops put it, Sawyer Smith would at least start the game behind center and give way to Bowden if/when needed. Only, think about it – did Stoops ever actually SAY, Sawyer will be the starter?
“We pretty much kept it under wraps,” Bowden said after the game. It was remarkable that he had the strength to speak, after rushing for 196 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for another 78 and a score.
“I’m not surprised that he had a lot,” said wide receiver Ahmad Wagner who, yes, drew another pass interference call that kept a drive alive. He might have caught more balls but Bowden was busy running through and around the Hogs. “I’m just… two hundred, man. That’s a good job.”
Bowden had spent most of his Kentucky career on the business end of passes from other quarterbacks – Stephen Johnson, Terry Wilson and Smith, the man he replaced in the UK lineup. On this night, he was the one launching passes, safely and effectively, hitting on 7-of-11 throws with no picks and one touchdown – to Clevan Thomas, his understudy as slot receiver.
What made him so effective – and won the game for Kentucky – was his running ability. Bowden’s 196 yards were the second-most ever gained by a Wildcat quarterback. Mike Fanuzzi, a wizard of a ball-handler in Fran Curci’s option offense, ran for 208 against Miami (O.) in 1974.
Bowden’s yardage total was the most for a UK player since Rafael Little blitzed Vanderbilt for 198 in 2005. And he became the first Kentucky QB to run for a score and throw for one as well since Patrick Towles did it in 2014, against a Mississippi State team led by a talented quarterback of its own named Dak Prescott.
“Just an unbelievable football player,” Arkansas coach Chad Morris said. “He makes the right plays at the right moment. He is a great athlete and a hell of a player. We knew what was going to be expected, especially with him as quarterback. We just didn’t stop him when it was needed.”
Of course, his 19-game streak with a pass reception ended; Bowden did attempt to return one punt but for the most part, turned over his kickoff and punt return duties to his teammates. But he was willing.
“I want to do what’s best for my team, whether they line me up at punter, kicker, anything – I just want to be there for my teammates, whatever’s going to make us the best,” he said. “If the coaches need me to play anywhere, I’m going to do it, no problems. “
Spoken like the guy who wore number 22 and eventually became Kentucky’s all-time leader in passing yards. In fact, Lorenzen did pooch kick more than once during his career. Whatever it took. He would have loved what he saw in Lynn Bowden Saturday night, no doubt.
Stoops said he was proud the Wildcats scored the win – for Jared, and his family.
“Hopefully they kept him in the back of their mind because that's how Jared played,” Stoops said. “He really laid it on the line for his team each and every week and I was proud of our group tonight in his memory.”
Lorenzen never got a chance to play in a bowl game. Bowden never missed the post-season in his first two seasons of college football; his heroics against the Hogs helped put Kentucky halfway to bowl eligibility. And now he’ll likely start next week down between the hedges, against a Georgia team smarting from an upset loss in Athens to South Carolina.
He’ll do whatever he has to do for his team but he’d actually prefer it be at QB. “That’s all I really wanted to play,” he said.
Have fun, young man. Jared would be proud.