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Mark Stoops recaps thrilling Belk Bowl victory

Bowden’s final drive will forever live in Kentucky football history

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

You can now add a game-winning drive to the legend of Lynn Bowden as the junior quarterback led the Wildcats to an improbable 37-30 come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech to win the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trailing 30-24 in the fourth quarter, Bowden led the Wildcats on an 18-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions and a game-winning touchdown pass as he connected with Josh Ali on a 13-yard throw to tie the game with just 15 seconds remaining. Kicker Matt Ruffolo nailed the PAT for a 31-30 lead to secure one of the biggest wins in Kentucky football history. Virginia Tech’s last ditch effort resulted in a fumble that was scooped up by UK’s Jordan Wright who waltzed into the end zone for the final margin.

Playing in his final collegiate game, Bowden rushed for 233 yards and two touchdowns and was calm and cool in the pocket as the Virginia Tech defense (and game clock) closed in on the UK offense over the final minute of the drive. Bowden, the wide receiver-turned-starting-quarterback, will forgo his senior season to the enter the NFL draft after a stellar 2019 season that resulted in winning the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. He leaves UK with numerous rushing records and accolades as one of the all-time greats to wear a Kentucky football uniform.

The final game of the decade also turned out to be one of the best in Kentucky history.

Virginia Tech opened the scoring on a 54-yard field goal from Brian Johnson to take an early 3-0 lead. Kentucky would then get on the board on a 25-yard touchdown run by Bowden to take a 7-3 advantage. That’s when the Hokies went to the passing game and scored 14 unanswered points as Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker threw two touchdown passes to take a 17-7 lead with 10:20 remaining in the half. Kentucky would bounce back on a 2-yard run from Chris Rodriguez out of the Wildcat formation to close the margin at 17-14 at halftime.

On Kentucky’s opening drive of the third quarter, the Cats tied the game at 17-17 on a 40-yard field goal by Ruffolo. Virginia Tech’s Deshawn McClease then got loose for a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Hokies a 24-17 lead with 9:57 left in the third quarter.

Once again, Kentucky answered as Bowden ran for a 61-yard touchdown, the longest of his career, to tie the game at 24-24. The Hokies jumped back on top with back-to-back field goals to push the lead to 30-24 to set up UK’s final scoring drive.

Kentucky closes the 2019 season with an 8-5 record with Stoops now moving to 2-2 in Bowl Games at Kentucky with back-to-back wins now at the Citrus and Belk Bowls.

After the game, Stoops met with the media to discuss the victory. Here is a recap of what he said via Jeff Drummond of Cats illustrated:

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