Lynn Bowden hoping to play more quarterback against Georgia

Kentucky photo by Barry Westerman / Kentucky junior receiver Lynn Bowden has been used in multiple roles during his career and played quarterback throughout last Saturday's 24-20 win over Arkansas.

Lynn Bowden Jr. has yet to kick, punt or play defensive back for the Kentucky Wildcats, but nobody would doubt his abilities to assume those or other roles within reason for his 6-foot-1, 199-pound frame.

Bowden entered his junior season as Kentucky's top offensive threat, having amassed 67 catches last year to break Derek Abney's school record for receptions by a sophomore that had stood since 2001. Yet when returning quarterback Terry Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury in early September and backup Sawyer Smith developed shoulder and wrist problems late last month, Bowden returned to a position that made him a four-star athlete prospect at Warren Harding High School in Youngstown, Ohio.

His debut as a starting quarterback was a resounding success.

Bowden accounted for two rushing touchdowns and one passing score in a 24-20 win over visiting Arkansas last Saturday night that evened Kentucky's record at 3-3 entering this week's trip to 10th-ranked Georgia.

"It was special to me," Bowden said late Saturday night in a news conference. "Two weeks ago, when they told me I was going to be in that room, I thought it was so I could give Sawyer a little break. When it got to game week, they put me in the rotation, and my teammates and my coaches trusted me to get back there to lead the team."

Bowden (pronounced BO-den) did a lot more than lead, rushing 24 times for a whopping 196 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards and a score on an offense that compiled 418 yards.

His 24-yard touchdown run with 6:53 remaining gave the Wildcats their first lead of the night and capped a rally from a 13-0 deficit.

"I'm so proud of Lynn, obviously, for what he's done and the way he's prepared for these past couple of weeks," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "I'm also proud of the team, because we've played really good around him. Guys have been unselfish as far as blocking and doing tough things on the perimeter."

Smith was able to practice last week, and it is unknown whether he will be healthy enough to reclaim the quarterback role this week in Sanford Stadium or if Bowden will get a second start. Bowden joked that keeping things secret last week was the toughest part of the entire experience.

The Bulldogs are coming off a stunning 20-17 double-overtime loss to South Carolina, which prevailed with third-string quarterback Dakereon Joyner after Saturday's starter, Ryan Hilinski, suffered a knee sprain during the third quarter. Hilinski began this season as the backup to Jake Bentley, who was lost for the year in the opener.

"Lynn is extremely athletic, and their staff does a great job of using his skill set," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday in his weekly news conference. "You think when he's back there that he's not going to throw it, but it becomes harder to defend him, because you let the pass creep out of your mind. Then he hits two or three big passes.

"They've got a major matchup factor on the outside in a really big wideout (Ahmad Wagner), and they've got tight ends who run pop passes when you play certain coverages. They've been one of the best rushing teams in our league for a while with Benny Snell, and now they're finding other ways with Lynn."

Georgia, which beat Kentucky 34-17 last November in a game that decided the SEC East, is seeking to complete a 10-0 decade against the Wildcats and match the 10 straight wins the Bulldogs compiled in this series from 1978 to 1987.

Bowden will try to throw a wrench into those plans, regardless of where he lines up on the field, but the thrill of last Saturday night has him itching to play quarterback again.

"I hope so, but I'm not going to be mad if I don't," Bowden said. "I'll play anywhere on the field that I need to. Georgia's a great team, and I know what they're going to bring.

"We just got done with this game, and I'm ready to play again."

Fair catches

South Carolina punted seven times to Georgia last Saturday, with one punt resulting in a touchback and another getting downed at the 4-yard line. The other five punts by the Gamecocks resulted in fair catches from Bulldogs freshman receiver Dominick Blaylock.

Why so many?

"Unfortunately, there are times where we play in 'safe,' or a prevent mode because of a fake alert based on who they send in the game or the down and distance to where he has to fair-catch them," Smart said. "We had several the other day where we were in safe, so he's not protected. We weren't holding anybody up for him, so he can't just abandon it and try to return it on his own."

Odds and ends

Smart said Monday that junior guard Justin Shaffer (neck) will be out this Saturday and that graduate transfer receiver Lawrence Cager (shoulder and ribs) is doubtful. ... The Bulldogs hold a 58-12-2 series lead against the Wildcats.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.