By CHANDLER WILCOX, Contributing Writer
CHARLOTTE — The 2019 Kentucky football season ended in exciting fashion, as the Cats’ defeated Virginia Tech 37-30 in a wild Belk Bowl to finish 8-5 for this football year.
Kentucky was playing behind a score or tied almost the whole game, but was given the chance down 30-24 with the ball with roughly 8:30 left in the game to claim the lead and victory.
They took advantage.
After a long eight minute and 22-play drive that included a conversion on 4th and 7, the Cats’ scored off a 13 yard passing touchdown from all-purpose first team All-American and quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. to wide receiver Josh Ali to tie the score at 30 with just 15 seconds to spare on the game-clock.
“I had all the faith in the world he was going to complete a touchdown pass,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said about Bowden.
The coaches initially planned to run the ball on that play, but after a timeout from Virginia Tech, the plan changed.
“I kind of went over there to the coaches, I said ‘can we at least take a shot?’” quarterback Lynn Bowden said. “They put it in my hands. Glory to God, my O-line, they held up. Y’all (the media) said I couldn’t throw, so over the top it goes.”
That decision proved to be a good one, and Bowden once again, this time with his arm, provided some magic, which led to a made PAT from Matt Ruffolo that put the Cats up 31-30 with barely any time left in the game.
In terms of running the ball, Bowden, who has already broken records and won awards for his excellent play, in this game was again the most effective in the run game, as he broke the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback ever in a bowl game, running for 239 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
The performance led to him being the MVP, but he again gave credit to the offensive line when talking about the rushing numbers he put up.
“I want to see how my o-line ain’t win no award,” Bowden said. “That’s just a question for the world, I want to know.”
The Kentucky defense, overall, did not have its best game, giving up 30 points to the Hokies, the first time giving up that many since the game against Georgia last season, as Virginia Tech was able to gain big play after big play.
“It was tough,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said. “He’s (Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente) a very good coach and they kept some good balance on us today.”
When it came to crunch time late in the game, though, after the Cats’ fumbled the ball in Virginia Tech territory that was reviewed and determined too unclear to overturn, the defense held the Hokies to just a field goal. Then after the UK offense was unable to score the next possession, the defense held Virginia Tech to a three-and-out.
That three-and-out gave the Wildcat offense another chance, which ended up being the game-winning drive.
“They added a couple wrinkles so it took some time to adjust, and I think at halftime we cleaned it up,” senior defensive-lineman Calvin Taylor Jr. said.
“The coaches do a great job always and our players dug in and found some opportunities, found some stops,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said.
This victory over Virginia Tech is another huge win in the Mark Stoops era, as he continues to take the program places many thought it would never be, and caps off the phenomenal career of not just Lynn Bowden Jr., who is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, but the many seniors that helped build the program to where it is now.