The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies 37-30 in an epic Belk Bowl Battle.
Here’s a recap of all the action.
After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, Kentucky started the day on defense. Kentucky’s defense nearly forced a three and out on Virginia Tech’s first drive, but a Boogie Watson roughing the passer call gave the Hokies a fresh set of downs. The Hokies would continue to benefit from Kentucky penalties later in the drive when Calvin Taylor was called for an Illegal hand to the face penalty moving Tech into Kentucky territory. Kentucky’s defense eventually began to buckle down as Watson delivered a big hit for a loss of four on first down. Virginia Tech would only move yard one after this hit forcing them to try a 54-yard field goal. The length was no problem for Virginia Tech’s Brian Johnson, who knocked it down for a new carer long and put the Hokies in front 3-0 early.
Kentucky’s first offensive possession began on their own 20 after a short kick-off return. The drive got off to a rough start as A.J. Rose was stopped for a four-yard loss, and Kavosiey Smoke gained just two back setting up a 3rd and 12. Then Rose took off for what looked to be a 78-yard touchdown, but the officials called the play back after Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg was called for holding and Virginia Tech’s Armani Chattman was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. While Rose would not be credited with a touchdown, the fouls did result in a UK first down. With a fresh set of downs, Kentucky’s offense began to heat up. Chris Rodriguez ran for six yards and Lynn Bowden hit Josh Ali on a quick screen for 25-yards to move UK into Tech territory. After gaining a combined nine yards, Mark Stoops elected to keep his offense on the field. The decision would pay off as Rose ran for the first, but a Stenberg unsportsmanlike penalty moved the Cats back to their own 44. The penalty would do no harm as on the very next play, Bowden ran for a 15 yard gain and a first down. On third and six from the 25 yard-line, the Wildcats found the end zone as Bowden sprinted to the end zone on a 25-yard run to put the Cats on top 7-3.
On Virginia Tech’s ensuing possession, the Hokies got off to a hot start as Deshawn McClease ran for 36 yards and quarterback Hendon Hooker hit James Mitchell for a 19 yard gain to move the Hokies into the red zone. On third and nine, the Hokies found the end zone as Hooker found Damon Hazelton for an 18-yard touchdown to push Virginia Tech in front 10-7.
Kentucky’s second drive of the day began at their own 25 yard-line. The drive would not go as planned as on third down and four Rose fumbled. He was able to recover, but the Cats lost nine yards resulting in a Max Duffy punt. On the back end of the Duffys punt, UK gunner Zach Johnson delivered a big hit to Virginia Tech’s Hezekiah Grimsley to end the quarter.
Score After First Quarter: Virginia Tech 10, Kentucky 7
Virginia Tech began the second quarter with the ball at their own 40. The Hokies promptly moved into UK territory as Hooker found McClease for a 17 yard gain on a check down. From there, Tech continued to inch closer to end zone as McClease ran for a 16 yard gain and Hooker ran for 13 to move to set up first and goal from the Kentucky eight-yard line. On third and goal, the Hokies would again find the end zone as Hooker connected with Dalton Keene for a six-yard score to put Virginia Tech up ten.
Kentucky started their first drive of the quarter at their own 18. The drive got off to an ideal start as on second down, Bowden ran for 19 yards and then on the very next play ran for 11 to set up UK at their own 47-yard line. Later in the drive, Bowden would move the Cats onto the VT side of the field with a five-yard run to set up a third and five from the VT 47. The drive would end there as on third down, Bowden was sacked by Virginia Tech’s Rayshard Ashby and Tyjaun Garbutt to force another Kentucky punt.
Needing a stop, Kentucky sent their defense back out on the field with Virginia Tech at their own 28 yard-line. The Cats defense quickly forced the Hokies into a third and long as Chris Oates made a pair of tackles for a loss. On third and 14, Kentucky’s defense stopped McClease well short of the line to gain forcing a punt. Josh Ali returned the punt from Virginia Tech’s Oscar Bradburn 10 yards to the Kentucky 36 yard-line.
On their next drive, Rose immediately moved the Cats inside Virginia Tech territory with a 31-yard run on first down. Two plays later, Kentucky moved into the red zone with a 16-yard Bowden pass to Justin Rigg. Facing a pivotal third and three from the five-yard line, the Cats were able to pick up the first down as Bowden ran for exactly three setting up a first and goal from the Virginia Tech two-yard line. On second and goal, Kentucky found pay dirt as Rodriguez bulldozed his way into the end zone for a touchdown to cut the Tech lead to three with 53 seconds left in the half.
With less than a minute left in the half, Virginia Tech kept the ball on the ground and did so with success as a Hooker 14-yard run moved the Hokies to the Kentucky 49 yard-line. Needing a stop, Kentucky’s Calvin Taylor delivered as he sacked Hooker for a loss of seven to end the half.
Halftime Score: Virginia Tech 17, Kentucky 14
Kentucky started the second half with excellent field position after Virginia Tech’s John Romo kicked the free kick out of bounds. On third and three, the Cats got another big run for Rose, who gained 34 yards to move Kentucky inside the Virginia Tech 25. After an incomplete pass on third down, Matt Ruffolo came in and nailed a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.
Virginia Tech’s opening possession of the half got off to a quick start as Hooker ran for a 10 yard gain and then hit Tre Turner for an 11 yard gain. Two plays later, the Hokies found the end zone as McClease scored from 43 yards out to put Virginia Tech back on top 24-17.
It appeared things would go from bad for worse for Kentucky as Bowden was intercepted on third down, but a pass interference penalty on Chattman negated the pick and instead gave the Wildcats a first down at the Tech 37-yard line. Facing a third down and long, Kentucky got a massive spark as Bowden sprinted passed the defense for a 61-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 24.
With the game tied, the Hokies looked to answer right back on their ensuing possession. The drive got off to a good start as Hooker connected with Keshawn King for a first down. Then, the Hokies moved across midfield as Hooker hit Mitchell in stride for a gain of 22. Later in the drive, the Hokies faced a pivotal third and eight from the UK 34. They’d be unable to convert as McClease dropped a screen pass. Instead of trying another long kick with B. Johnson, who had already hit from 54 yards, Justin Fuente elected to go for it on fourth down. The call turned out to be the right one as Hooker hit Tayvion Robinson for a 12-yard gain. This would be Virginia Tech’s last first down of the drive as they were held to a 40-yard B. Johnson field goal, which put them ahead 27-24 with 3:13 left in the quarter.
With a chance to take the lead, Kentucky began their next drive with three straight runs including a six-yard run for a first down by Rose. Then, Virginia Tech’s defense delivered a big play as Jarrod Hewitt forced a Rose fumble that was recovered by Jaylen Griffin setting up the Hokies at the Kentucky 39-yard line.
The quarter came to an end after a McClease 11 yard run set up the Hokies with a first and 10 from the UK 28 yard-line.
Score After Third Quarter: Virginia Tech 27, Kentucky 24
The game’s final quarter began with a 12-yard run from McClease to move the Hokies into the red zone. A few plays later, Kentucky was able to force Virginia Tech into a third and long after Watson ran Hooker out of bounds for a four-yard loss. This allowed Kentucky to hold the Hokies to a 27-yard B. Johnson field goal as Virginia Tech took a 30-24 lead with 12:47 left in the game.
Kentucky’s first drive of the fourth began at their own 32 after a 21 kick-return from Z. Johnson. Bowden quickly gave Kentucky a first down with a pair of runs for a combined 12 yards to start the drive. Then, Bowden made his first mistake of the game as he was intercepted by Brion Murray who returned the pick 23 yards to the Hokies 39-yard line.
Thanks to the Kentucky defense, Bowden’s interception would cause no harm as they were able to force Virginia Tech three and out.
The Cats regained possession at their own 15 after a 40-yard punt. Looking to find the scoreboard, Kentucky put the ball on the ground as Bowden ran on each of the drive’s first four plays. Then, Kavosiey Smoke got in on the action as he moved UK to the Tech 40 yard line with a five-yard run. The drive began to stall at the Kentucky 43 yard line as UK faced a forth and seven. Stoops elected to go for it. The decision would pay off as Bowden completed a nine-yard pass to Ali. As the game clock continued to wind down, Kentucky closed in on the end zone as Bowden ran for a nine-yard gain to move Kentucky to the VT 35. With 1:01 left to play, the Wildcats found themselves down to potentially their final play as they faced a fourth and one from the Tech 27 yard line. Kentucky would keep the game alive as Bowden was able to push forward for a three-yard gain. Two plays later, Bowden would move the Wildcats to the 13-yard line with 19 seconds left in the game. There, Bowden made perhaps the biggest play of his Kentucky carer as he threw a 13-yard touchdown to Ali to give UK a 31-30 lead with 15 seconds to go.
Needing a miracle, Virginia Tech’s offense took the field with just 15 seconds to play. The clock would fall down to four seconds after a pair of incompletions by Hooker, giving the Hokies one final chance. Instead of Virginia Tech scoring, it would be Kentucky finding the end zone as Jordan Wright recovered a fumbled lateral attempt and took it back to the end zone to seal the victory.
Final Score: Kentucky 37, Virginia Tech 30
MVP: Lynn Bowden
Lynn Bowden made history Tuesday as he broke quarterback rushing record in a bowl game with 233 rushing yards. Bowden added two touchdowns on the ground and 73 passing yards with the game-winning touchdown pass to Josh Ali.
HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Ali
Josh Ali picked a perfect day to have his best game as a Wildcat to date. Ali racked in four catches for 52 yards including the game winning touchdown with 15 seconds left to play.
Here are today’s highlights from UK Athletics.
How do you replace legends? You become one. pic.twitter.com/auoIWwhINw
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 31, 2019