LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Mark Stoops isn’t sugarcoating his team’s quarterback situation.
The Kentucky coach offered no hints Monday as to who will be the starter when the Wildcats take on Missouri Saturday at Kroger Field. Lynn Bowden made his second consecutive start at quarterback and managed 99 yards in a 21-0 loss to Georgia last weekend in Athens.
Bowden has rushed for 295 yards in the past two games as the team’s starter but Stoops said the Wildcats have some decisions to make in moving forward as Sawyer Smith’s health appears to be improving “at near 100 percent” and added the Wildcats need some help “in moving the football.”
‘We’re going to have to look at all options again (at quarterback),” Stoops said. “I’m not sitting here trying to throw you guys (reporters) for a loop or anybody else, the situation is what it is with our quarterback situation. I thought Lynn did some really good things that are hard to see all the time when (you watch) the film.
“He is relentless, extremely tough. He had some really tough yards (against Georgia). He had two scrambles that got called back with penalties. … Lynn made some incredible runs (and) that kind of defense is going to pose a problem for anybody playing quarterback. They are very good defensively and very disruptive.”
Although a decisive underdog against Georgia last week, the Wildcats (3-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) held the Bulldogs scoreless in the first half and limited the hosts to a season-low 270 yards in a 21-0 setback. Stoops was pleased with his team’s effort, especially on the defensive side of the football.
“The game comes down to a few possessions and a few plays and that hasn’t been the case the past few years (against) Georgia,” Stoops said. “I do feel like our team did some very good things. Defensively, we talked about starting much faster and did that the first seven possessions. We played extremely well, as good as we can play defensively. … I’m very pleased with the progress and the way the defense has been improving.”
Stoops said a penalty on a long run and a dropped pass in the end zone were costly in the contest. The Bulldogs capitalized on a rare botched punt by Max Duffy that led to two straight scores that put the game away.
“I really felt like we went in there with the mentality to win the game,” Stoops said. “We had a great opportunity to do that.”
Like Kentucky, the Tigers (5-2, 2-1) are coming off a loss going into the final stretch of the regular season. Missouri dropped a 21-14 loss at Vanderbilt after opening league play with wins over South Carolina and Ole Miss, sandwiched between an easy victory over Troy. Kentucky has recorded four straight wins over the Tigers, including a 15-14 triumph a year ago in Columbia.
“It’s an important game,” Stoops said. “It is important to get this victory. It’s the next game.”
In order to avoid a fifth conference defeat, Stoops said the Wildcats have to prepare to win.
“If we prepare and have the right mindset like the past two (weeks), I feel good about our opportunity this week,” Stoops said. “They (Missouri) didn’t have the result they were looking for a week ago, like we didn’t and it will be a very good game. We’re very excited to get back home and play.”
Gametracker: Missouri at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.