Tuesday's bowls: Kentucky rallies behind Lynn Bowden Jr.'s record-setting day
Charlotte, N.C. — Lynn Bowden Jr. outplayed Virginia Tech all day with his feet.
Then he closed them out with his arm.
“Ya’ll said I couldn’t throw, so over the top it goes,” Bowden joked after the game.
Bowden ran for 233 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 the 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. His rushing day was the biggest in a bowl game since Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel ran for 219 yards vs. Oklahoma in 2013.
Bowden said he never would have believed his final play as a college player would be a touchdown pass to win a bowl game. But a pregame scuffle with Virginia Tech players — in which TV footage showed Bowden apparently throwing a punch — could have written a very different story for the dynamic quarterback.
For two programs that hadn’t met since 1987 — long before anyone on either roster was born — this one got testy before kickoff. Tussles broke out between players during pregame warm-ups, but officials didn’t levy penalties or warnings for the actions.
“It’s a lot of emotion,” Bowden said. “I could have hurt my team and not been out there (today) with them, so I apologized to my program, my teammates. … We respect Virginia Tech, and if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it. But it’s in the past.”
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.
“This guy right here is one of the best players in the country,” Stoops said of Bowden, the Paul Hornung Award winner for the nation’s most versatile player. “He showed that. He and I have been talking for years about him playing defensive back. He’s been ready to go in there.”
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 to take a 31-30 lead. 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 score.
“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.
With both Western Kentucky and Louisville winning their bowl games, the state of Kentucky improved to 3-0 on the season.
Texas 38, No. 12 Utah 10: Sam Ehlinger passed for three touchdowns and ran for another, and Texas excised the frustrations of a disappointing regular season with a dominant win over Utah.
After a 10-win season in 2018 set up a Top 10 ranking to start 2019, Texas underwhelmed in a season the Longhorns expected to contend for the Big 12 title. Instead, they ended the year with both the offensive and defensive coordinators getting replaced.
For one game at least, Texas (8-5) wiped all that away with a bruising and convincing win over a Utah team that only a month ago was on the verge of making the College Football Playoff.
The Utes (11-3) didn’t get there after they were swamped in the Pac-12 title game by Oregon and perhaps struggled to shake off the heartbreak of what could have been.
Texas pounded out 231 yards rushing against the nation’s No. 1 defense against the run, which had held 10 opponents under 70 yards. Texas’ biggest run came on a 31-yard burst by Ehlinger on third down on the drive that led to his 6-yard touchdown that made it 24-3 late in the third quarter. Keaontay Ingram later added a 49-yard TD burst on the sideline late in the fourth.
Wyoming 38, Georgia State 17: Xazavian Valladay ran for 204 yards and scored two touchdowns, quarterback Levi Williams accounted for four scores and Wyoming rolled over Georgia State.
Wyoming (8-5) started slow before scoring two quick touchdowns late in the first quarter and early in the second. The Cowboys built a 14-point lead by halftime and racked up 524 total yards to win a bowl game after being left out of the postseason last year.
Williams made his first career start after Tyler Vander Waal entered the transfer portal but remained with the team for bowl practices. The freshman was poised under the bowl spotlight, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another.
Valladay had three catches for 91 yards and a touchdowns.
Georgia State (7-6) jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but had a hard time stopping the big-play Cowboys. The Panthers twice turned the ball over on downs deep in Wyoming’s end in the second half.
No. 21 Navy 20, Kansas State 17: Bijan Nichols kicked a 23-yard field goal with two seconds remaining and Navy capitalized on a fourth-down gamble in the final minute to beat Kansas State.
A Navy team with the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack set up the winning score by completing a halfback option pass with less than 30 seconds left. The Midshipmen snapped the ball on fourth-and-3 from the Kansas State 46. Quarterback Malcolm Perry pitched to C.J. Williams, and he threw downfield to a wide-open Chance Warren for a 41-yard gain.
Perry, who rushed for 213 yards, spiked the ball with 5 seconds left to set up Nichols’ field goal. Nichols had missed a 38-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter.
The victory enabled Navy (11-2) to tie a program record for wins and ensured the Midshipmen will finish a season in the AP Top 25 for just the third time in the last 56 years. Navy finished 18th in 2015 — when it also won 11 games — and was 24th in 2004.
Navy went 3-10 last year and matched the second-biggest season-to-season improvement in win-loss record of any team in Football Bowl Subdivision history. Hawaii owns the record by going 9-4 in 1999 after finishing 0-12 in 1998.
Arizona State 20, Florida State 16: Willie Harts returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to lead Arizona State to victory.
Harts, a freshman cornerback, halted a 14-0 surge by Florida State (6-7) and helped the Sun Devils (8-5) hang on for their fourth Sun Bowl victory, despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.
James Blackman threw a 91-yard touchdown pass, the longest pass play in Sun Bowl history, to Tamorrion Terry to give Florida State its first lead, 14-9, in the third quarter. The Seminoles trailed 9-0 at halftime.
Cristian Zendejas kicked a Sun Bowl record-tying four field goals for Arizona State, including a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter to cut the FSU lead to 14-12.
Then Blackman’s fourth interception of the game was returned by Harts to put the Sun Devils ahead for good with 10:06 left in the fourth.
Jayden Daniels was 12-for-28 passing for 198 yards to lead the Sun Devils. He also ran 36 yards and a 2-point conversion.