Commodores look to slow down Kentucky Wildcats’ rushing attack this Saturday

Kentucky’s unconventional offense that features a wide receiver turned quarterback has found success in recent weeks


Emily Gonçalves

The Kentucky Wildcats narrowly defeated Vanderbilt 14-7 in their matchup last season in Lexington.

Alyssa Muir, Senior Writer

With only three games left, the Vanderbilt Commodores are running out of chances to salvage their season. Vanderbilt’s 56-0 loss against the Florida Gators was arguably its worst performance to date. Quarterback Deuce Wallace was under constant pressure in the pocket while, on the other side, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask mechanically picked apart the Commodore defense. 

Derek Mason’s job could hinge on winning a couple of these last few games, and getting a win this weekend over the Kentucky Wildcats would be a good start. 

In order to get their second SEC win of the season, the Commodores are going to have to stop Kentucky’s wildcat offense led by Lynn Bowden Jr. Bowden, who played quarterback in high school, started the season at wide receiver after posting impressive numbers there last season (745 yards, five touchdowns). However, as a result of the Wildcats quarterback staff being decimated by injuries, he has been forced to step into the new role, starting the last four games under center, leading Kentucky to a 2-2 record and rushing for 613 yards during that period. 

The key for the Commodores on defense will be to limit Bowden’s ground game and force him to throw the ball. He has thrown for just 213 yards this season and has a completion percentage of under 50 percent. In last week’s loss to Tennessee, he attempted a mere seven passes which only resulted in 25 yards. In fact, he hasn’t thrown for more than 78 yards in a game yet. 

The Commodores might need to account for Sawyer Smith, Kentucky’s other quarterback in the equation. He has been banged up this year but appears to be getting healthy, appearing on the field for two plays against Tennessee. However, the fact that head coach Bob Stoops stuck with Bowden down the stretch even when the offense was struggling is telling of who he prefers at the quarterback position. 

Apart from their wildcat quarterback, the Wildcats also get solid production out of their junior running back Asim Rose. Rose has rushed for 552 yards this season and has also scored four rushing touchdowns. 

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, it ranks 103rd nationally in rushing yards surrendered per game with 196.7. The defense is also currently giving up over five yards a carry. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver’s unit will have to be better than that and better than what they showed last week against Florida in order to compete with Kentucky. The offense is averaging an ugly 15.1 points per game and, with all the fluctuation at the quarterback position, has consistently shown that they aren’t going to be the group that carries the team to victories. 

If the Commodores want to pull off the upset, the team is going to need to replicate the formula it used to win against Missouri. In that game, the defense was dominant and came up with big stop after big stop to secure the victory. The same will be required this Saturday, when Vanderbilt takes on Kentucky at home. Kickoff is 2:30 CT.