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Cats winning games the old school way

By Shane Shackleford

Contributing Columnist

The Kentucky Wildcats took a major step forward to achieving their fourth straight bowl bid with a 38-14 waxing of Vanderbilt Saturday in Nashville. And for the football purists out there, they did it the old fashioned way.

They earned it.

With all of the pyro-technics of offensive football that are all the rage nowadays, UK is relying on a tried and true winning formula of running the football, playing great defense and being solid in the kicking game.

Kentucky rushed for a massive 401 yards on the ground (529 total yards of offense) behind the play of junior athlete Lynn Bowden at the controls. Bowden has not only set himself as a receiver playing quarterback, but he is also now QB1 in Lexington. And rightfully so.

Bowden has applied his phenomenal athleticism to the UK offense to make it truly a power offense. When you consider that since Bowden has taken over at quarterback, he is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. But Bowden isn’t alone. The Cats’ stable of running backs (AJ Rose, Kavoisey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez) have all had big days running the ball.

The key to this rushing attack, though, starts upfront. The UK offensive line, coached by John Schlarman, has become a Big Blue road grader, plowing the line of scrimmage and allowing the Kentucky version of the Four Horsemen of college football yore to run fast, hard and free in the possibly best conference for power football — the SEC.

As great as the offense has been, any UK success has to be tied to its defense. On Saturday, the Wildcat defense held the Vandy offense to 198 yards of total offense. Although it was a struggling Commodore offense they were playing, it is still impressive by any means.

The Cats have been very solid all season long defensively. Considering UK has had to replace its entire secondary, key contributors upfront, and Defensive Player of the Year Josh Allen from a 10 win and New Year’s Day bowl winner in 2018, what the defense is doing has been nothing short of miraculous.

The third key to this winning formula is solid special teams play. While the kicking game has had its high and low points for sure, the situation seems to be settling down with Chance Poore becoming more consistent after his benching.

However, the star of special teams is punter Max Duffy. Duffy’s consistency in being able to flip the field and allow the defense to play with a deeper field has been invaluable for the Cats.

As the Cats move forward, closing their schedule with UT-Martin and Louisville in the friendly confines of Kroger Field, their formula should serve them well and afford the Cats the opportunity to win both games and finish 7-5.

Considering the challenges they have faced, even the opportunity for this is by any stretch the best coaching job UK coach Mark Stoops has done in his seven years in Lexington. It is quite possibly the best coaching job any head coach has done in the SEC this season.

There’s a lot to be happy about with the Cats this season. Hopefully, the schedule closes out with a bang with a bowl victory. Wouldn’t that be something?