Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech Falls to Kentucky 37-30

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Dec 31, 2019

Virginia Tech's season ended in a brutal way as Virginia Tech fell to Kentucky 37-30 after the Wildcats scored a pair of touchdowns inside the final 15 seconds via a 13-yard touchdown pass by Lynn Bowden Jr to Josh Ali followed by a fumble returned for a touchdown after Tech's final play of laterals ended in that way. With the loss, the Hokies finish the season 8-5 while Kentucky improves to 8-5.

Tech forced 2 Kentucky turnovers, but were only able to score 3 points off of them while being outgained 404-329. Tech did average 6 yards per play compared to 5.9 for Kentucky, but were unable to contain the Kentucky rushing attack with the Wildcats averaging 6 yards per carry. Tech's rushing attack was strong as they did average 6.6 yards per carry while the Hokies also only had 30 penalty yards compared to 65 for Kentucky.

Hendon Hooker had a solid game going 12-22 for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns while running for 50 yards on 12 carries. Deshawn McClease was the offensive star with 126 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries plus 2 catches for 17 yards. James Mitchell led Tech's receivers with 3 catches for 36 yards while Damon Hazelton and Dalton Keene each had a touchdown reception.

Rayshard Ashby was a defensive star for the Hokies with 14 tackles including 2.5 for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 QB hurry. Alan Tisdale also stepped up as a playmaker down the stretch finishing the game with 14 tackles while Brion Murray had 6 tackles and an interception, and Jarrod Hewitt had 6 tackles and a forced fumble.

Lynn Bowden Jr. earned Belk Bowl MVP honors after an incredible performance running for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns on 34 carries while throwing for 73 yards, 1 interception, and the game-winning touchdown on 6-12 passing. Josh Ali was the other offensive star with 4 catches for 52 yards and a touchdown while A.J. Rose had 69 yards on 10 carries. Chris Oats and Jamar Watson each had 2 tackles for loss while Calvin Taylor had a sack and T.J. Carter had a tackle for loss and 2 QB hurries.

Play-By-Play

Virginia Tech opened the game at their 25 after a touchback on the kickoff. Hooker's first three passes were incomplete including a pair of drops, but Tech picked up a third down roughing the passer gave Tech 15 yards and a first down at their 40. Tech's next two passes were incomplete but a second down hands to the face personal foul gave the Hokies another first down at the Kentucky 45.

Deshawn McClease picked up 9 yards on first down followed by a 2-yard loss from McClease to set up 3rd and 3 at the UK 38. Tech picked up the first down on the next play with a five-yard carry by Tayvion Robinson to the UK 33. Hooker completed his first pass to Keshawn King who was immediately tackled for a 4-yard loss followed by a one-yard run for Tre Turner to set up 3rd and 13. Hooker's third down was incomplete, but Brian Johnson stepped up making a career-long 54-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead with 11:15 to go in the first quarter.

Kentucky started at their own 20 after a 20-yard return on the kickoff. Kentucky's first carry by Max Rose was stuffed for no gain with Kavoisey Smoke gaining 2 yards to set up 3rd and 8. Kentucky broke out for a touchdown run that was brought back after a holding, but a 15-yard "abusive language" penalty against Armani Chatman gave UK a first down at their 27. Christopher Rodriguez Jr picked up 6 on first down followed by a completion to Josh Ali from Lynn Bowden for 25 yards and a first down at the VT 42. Bowden picked up five more yards on first down before slipping on second down to set up a 3rd and 6.

Bowden scrambled on what appeared to be a read option before throwing it for 5 yards to Clevan Thomas Jr to set up a 4th and 1 that Kentucky converted via a 4-yard carry from A.J. Rose. However, Kentucky lost 15 yards for a taunting penalty to give them their first down at the VT 44. Bowden ran for 15 yards on first down to pick up a first down at the VT 29. Rodriguez picked up 4 on first down followed by a Sawyer Smith incompletion second down to set up 3rd and 6. Bowden then took a QB draw for 25 yards and a touchdown, giving Kentucky a 7-3 lead with 4:20 to go in the first quarter.

Virginia Tech started at their own 25 after a Kentucky touchback. Deshawn McClease opened with a 36-yard carry followed by a 19-yard completion to James Mitchell to give the Hokies a first down in the red zone at the UK 19. Keshawn King picked up one yard on first down with Hendon Hooker running for no gain on second down to set up 3rd and 9. Tech stepped up on 3rd and 9 with Hooker finding Damon Hazelton who made a tremendous low catch for an 18-yard touchdown to give the Hokies a 10-7 lead with 2:04 to go in the first quarter.

Kentucky started at their 25 after a touchback from John Parker Romo. A.J. Rose picked up 3 on first down followed by a 3-yard gain for Bowden to set up 3rd and 4 at the UK 31. Kentucky ran a third down option with the pitch being fumbled and recovered by A.J. Rose at the UK 22. Max Duffy's punt went 38 yards to Hezekiah Grimsley who was immediately tackled at the VT 40.

Hooker's first down pass was completed to Deshawn McClease in the flat for no gain followed by a three-yard carry to set up 3rd and 7. Hooker then found McClease on a checkdown who took it 17 yards for a first down at the Kentucky 40. Tech then handed it off to Keshawn King off a jet sweep who picked up 14 yards and a first down at the UK 26. Hooker scrambled on first down for 6 yards followed by a read option keep by Hooker for 13 yards and a first down at the UK 7.

King gained 1 yard on first and goal followed by no gain from Hooker on second down to set up 3rd and goal at the UK 6. Hooker then found Dalton Keene with a good pass and great catch for a 6-yard touchdown to extend the Hokies' lead to 17-7 with 10:20 to go in the first half.

Kentucky returned the kickoff 18 yards out of the endzone to their own 18. Bowden's first down pass off a pop pass RPO was incomplete followed by a 19-yard carry by Bowden for a first down at the UK 37. Bowden gained 11 more yards to pick up another first down. Smoke ran for a marginal loss followed by Bowden scrambling for 5 to set up 3rd and 5 at the VT 48. Bowden was sacked by Rayshard Ashby and TyJuan Garbutt with Bowden fumbling recovered by Kentucky, forcing a punt. Max Duffy's punt went 35 yards with Tayvion Robinson returning it 11 yards to the VT 28.

Keshawn King's first down carry went for a one-yard loss followed by a second down screen to James Mitchell that wen for a 3-yard loss to set up 3rd and 14. McClease carried it on first down gaining 7 yards but not enough to avoid a punt. Oscar Bradburn's punt went 43 yards with Josh Ali returning it 10 yards to the UK 36.

Rose opened the drive with a 31-yard carry to give Kentucky a first down at the VT 33. Bowden kept the first down carry for 5 yards followed by a 16-yard completion from Bowden to Justin Rigg for a first down at the VT 12. Bowden picked up 4 yards on first down followed by a three-yard carry for Rose to set up 3rd and 3 with Justin Fuente calling a timeout before the play. Bowden ran for 3 to set up first and goal at the VT 2. Rodriguez's first down carry went for no game before Rodriguez kept a jet sweep read option; rather than hand it off to Bowden, for a 2-yard touchdown, cutting Tech's lead to 17-14 with 53 seconds left.

Virginia Tech started at their own 25 after a touchback from Kentucky. McClease ran for 7 on first down followed by a 5-yard offsides penalty to give Tech a first down at the Kentucky 37. Hooker scrambled for 14 yards getting out of bounds at the Kentucky 49 with 17 seconds left with Kentucky calling timeout. Hooker was sacked on the first down play with the clock running out after as Virginia Tech took a 17-14 lead to halftime with Kentucky receiving the ball to start the 2nd half.

Virginia Tech was outgained by Kentucky 181-161 in the first half, but won the hidden yardage battle with only 15 penalty yards compared to 60 for Kentucky. Tech's rushing attack was also solid as the Hokies averaged 6 yards per carry compared to 5.6 for UK while also scoring touchdowns on both of their trips to the red zone.

Hendon Hooker started off slow with four-straight incompletions, but finished with seven-straight completions with 53 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hooker also ran for 26 yards on 6 carries while Deshawn McClease had a big half with 6 carries for 61 yards and 2 catches for 17 yards. Dalton Keene and Damon Hazelton each had a touchdown reception while James Mitchell had 2 catches for 16 yards. Lynn Bowden had a strong half with 90 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries plus 46 yards on 3-4 passing with A.J. Rose having 32 yards and Christian Rodriguez having a TD and 12 rushing yards.

Defensively, Rayshard Ashby had a big first half with 9 tackles including 1.5 for loss, 0.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Jarrod Hewitt had 2 tackles including 1 for loss while TyJuan Garbutt had 0.5 sacks. Chris Oats led Kentucky with 4 tackles including 2 for loss while Kash Daniel and Yusuf Corker each had 5 tackles to lead the Wildcats.

John Parker Romo's kickoff went out of bounds giving Kentucky possession at their 35. Lynn Bowden Jr opened the half with a 5-yard carry followed by 2 more yards from Bowden to set up 3rd and 3. A.J. Rose picked up 34 on third down to give Kentucky a first down at the VT 24. Clevan Thomas ran for 4 on first down followed by Eli Adams stuffing Rose in the backfield for a 2-yard loss, setting up 3rd and 8. Bowden's third down pass was incomplete, but Matt Ruffolo made the 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 with 11:29 left in the third quarter.

Keshawn King returned the kickoff 21 yards to the VT 24. Hendon Hooker scrambled on the first play for 10 yards and a first down at the VT 34. Hooker then found Tre Turner near the sideline for an 11-yard completion and a first down at the VT 45. Turner then took the jet sweep 12 yards to the VT 43 for a third-straight first down. Deshawn McClease took the next carry 43 yards for a touchdown after great blocking from Tech's offensive line, giving VT a 24-17 lead with 9:57 left in the third quarter.

Kentucky started at their own 25 after a touchback from John Parker Romo. Christopher Rodriguez Jr gained 2 yards on the first down carry followed by a Bowden incompletion off a double reverse with Kentucky calling timeout before the play. A Kentucky false start made it 3rd and 13, but a Chamarri Conner interception was wiped out by an Armani Chatman pass interference, giving Kentucky first down at the UK 37. Bowden picked up 2 yards on first down with Bowden's second down pass being incomplete, setting up 3rd and 8. Bowden then took the 3rd down QB draw and broke out for a 61-yard touchdown, making multiple guys miss in the process, to tie the game at 24.

Virginia Tech started at their 25 after a touchback from Kentucky. King opened this drive with a 5-yard carry followed by a 9-yard completion from Hooker to King on a pass to the flat for a first down at the VT 39. King ran for 3 on first down followed by a 23-yard completion from Hooker to James Mitchell for a first down at the UK 36. Hooker then scrambled shedding a couple weak tacklers for 6 yards followed by a timeout with 5:04 left in the third quarter.

McClease was stuffed in the backfield for a 4-yard loss to set up a 3rd and 8 that Tech failed to convert after a drop on a high screen pass by McClease. Tech went for it on 4th and 8 and converted with a 12-yard completion to Tayvion Robinson to pick up a first down at the UK 22. Hooker's pass to Damon Hazelton was incomplete followed by a run from Hooker for no gain to set up 3rd and 10. Hooker's third down pass was incomplete, but Brian Johnson made the 40-yard field goal to give Virginia Tech a 27-24 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter.

John Parker Romo's kickoff went for a touchback to give Kentucky the ball at the UK 25. Bowden ran for 5 yards on first down before being stuffed for no gain on second down by Jarrod Hewitt. Kentucky converted a 3rd and 5 with a 6-yard gain by A.J. Rose to the UK 36. Bowden ran for 4 on a read option keep on first down. Jarrod Hewitt forced a Rose fumble on second down with Jaylen Griffin recovering it at the UK 39.

Deshawn McClease picked up 11 on the first play of the drive to gain a first down at the UK 28 to end the third quarter. McClease picked up 12 more yards on the next play to pick up another first down in the red zone at the UK 16. Keshawn King ran for 2 yards on first down followed by a 4-yard loss for Hooker on second down to set up 3rd and 12. Hooker came up just short on third down with a 9-yard carry, but Brian Johnson took advantage of the short field for a 27-yard field goal to extend the Tech lead to 30-24 with 12:47 to go.

Zach Johnson returned the kickoff 21 yards to the Kentucky 32. Bowden opened the drive with a 7-yard carry followed by a 5-yard carry for Bowden to pick up the first down at the UK 44. Bowden was stuffed for a one-yard loss by Rayshard Ashby followed by a pitch jet sweep pass to Josh Ali for 5 yards to set up 3rd and 6. Bowden's third down pass was overthrown with Brion Murray intercepting and returning it 23 yards to the VT 39.

Hooker opened the possession with a 3-yard carry followed by a 3-yard carry by McClease to set up 3rd and 4. Tech failed to convert on third down as Hooker's pass was thrown in front of Hazelton. Oscar Bradburn's punt went 40 yards being fair caught at the UK 15 by Bowden.

Bowden ran for 7 on first down followed by 2 more yards on second down from Bowden to set up 3rd and 1. Kentucky converted on third down with Bowden keeping a speed option to pick up 4 yards and a first down at the UK 28. Bowden picked up 7 on first down followed by a 5 yard gain and a first down from Kavosiey Smoke. Bowden gained 3 on first down with Bowden getting stuffed on second down to set up 3rd and 7 at the UK 43. Kentucky failed to convert on third down after a Bowden incompletion, but converted on fourth down with a 9-yard pass from Bowden to Josh Ali.

Rodriguez gained 4 yards on first down followed by a 9-yard gain for Bowden to the VT 35 for a first down. Bowden gained 4 on first down, not gaining more after a slip. His second down run went for 4 more yards to set up 3rd and 2 with a direct snap to Smoke gaining 1 yard to set up 4th and 1 at the VT 26, leading to a Kentucky timeout with 1:01 left. Kentucky converted with a 2-yard run from Bowden to the VT 24. Bowden gained 2 more yards on first down followed by Bowden running out of bounds for 9 yards and a first down to the VT 13 with 19 seconds left. Tech called a timeout before the next play with Bowden finding Josh Ali for a 13-yard touchdown with Kentucky making the extra point to take a 31-30 lead with 15 seconds left.

Tech started at the 25 after a touchback with Hooker's first two passes being incomplete. Virginia Tech's final play was a pass with plenty of laterals that would be fumbled, followed by a recovery by Kentucky returned for a touchdown.