CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Lynn Bowden Jr. ran for 223 yards on 34 carries, and then tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Josh Ali with 15 seconds left as Kentucky rallied behind its remarkable receiver-turned-quarterback to beat Virginia Tech 37-30 on Tuesday in a high-tension Belk Bowl.
Bowden ran for two touchdowns before leading an 18-play, 85-yard game-winning drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock, It ended with Ali getting open down the middle of the end zone. Bowden, who took over as Kentucky’s quarterback after five games because of injuries, passed for 73 yards on 12 attempts.
The Wildcats (8-5) added a final touchdown as time expired when Jordan Wright returned a failed lateral attempt by the Hokies 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Ya’ll said I couldn’t throw, so over the top it goes,” Bowden joked after the game.
Bowden said he never would have believed his final play as a college player would be a touchdown pass to win a bowl game.
Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said if Bowden had been the starting quarterback since the beginning of the season he would have been a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Hendon Hooker threw for 110 yards and two touchdowns and Deshawn McClease ran for 126 yards and a score to lead the Hokies (8-5).
Kentucky overcame two second-half turnovers by holding Virginia Tech to two field goals and a punt on its final three possessions.
Bowden, the game’s MVP, carried 13 times on the winning drive, converting a fourth down along the way.
“He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands but throwing the ball, that should have been to our advantage when all was said and done,” said Virginia Tech’s long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who ended his coaching career with a loss.
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said despite the loss he was still proud of his team for rallying midway through the season to earn the school’s 27th straight bowl bid.
“We’ve tasted both sides of it,” Fuente said. “The highest of highs, lowest of lows. That should fuel us moving forward.”
With both Western Kentucky and Louisville winning their bowl games, the state of Kentucky improved to 3-0 on the season.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies lose only five senior starters, all on defense. Their offensive line is all freshman and sophomores, a good sign for continuity. Hooker is a junior.
Kentucky: The Wildcats will have to replace Bowden, the team’s third starting quarterback this season. Bowden also finished as the team’s leading receiver, despite playing quarterback for the final eight games.
Virginia Tech: Host Liberty on Sept. 5.
Kentucky: Host Eastern Michigan on Sept. 5.