How do you stop Lynn Bowden?
Seven teams have asked that question. None have overwhelmingly succeeded. Georgia was the only team that held Bowden to less than 100 yards rushing. He gained at least five yards per carry against every opponent except Tennessee (4.4 per rush).
Even though the lead in to the Belk Bowl has entirely centered around the disrespect card Bowden played at Belk Bowl media day, publicly the Hokies had nothing but praise to dole out for Kentucky’s quarterback.
“I’ve seen a couple of his highlights. He’s really explosive. He’s a special talent,” said Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker. “You don’t see many like that these days. When he gets to the open field, he’s dangerous. It’s really good to watch.”
“I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit on a national level for making the switch,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “It’s not like he’s just catching the snap and running the ball up the middle. He’s running an offense. A pretty remarkable player.”
Bowden’s ability to generate big plays is difficult to simulate in practice, even with a few rushing quarterbacks in Tech’s stables. Kentucky’s style of offense is not nearly as difficult to mimic in practice. They received a small, albeit slightly different taste of that style annually against Georgia Tech before the Yellow Jackets ditched the triple option in 2019.
“It’s a challenge we’re ready to take,” said linebacker Rayshard Ashby, the Hokies’ leading tackler.
“He’s explosive. He can make a lot of plays, very athletic. They do a lot of splitting the defense with quarterback runs and things like that, just getting your eyes in different places. We just have to be in the right gaps, be at the right places and make tackles and everybody else run to the ball at all times.”
If they aren’t in the right place at the right time, Fuente knows what will happen.
“You got a guy there that if you’re a half-man out of your gap is gonna score; not just get a first down, not just getting eight yards, but is going to the house.” He added, “That’s a dangerous combination right there.”
Of course, the Hokies would not publicly reveal their defensive gameplan. After coaching against him at Florida State and Miami, Mark Stoops has a good idea what Bud Foster is bringing to the table.
“I think you’re going to see an aggressive approach — just my opinion — from Virginia Tech. Knowing Bud (Foster), playing against him, his style, I think he’s going to be very aggressive,” Stoops said.
“However, we’ve got to create big plays with that. You guys could see the defensive approach if you watched us with Lynn at quarterback the last seven games, there’s different styles. Missouri was blitzing and pressuring and we found a way to exploit that to create big plays. Then others took more of a bend but don’t break (approach). Tennessee played with a post-safety a good portion of the game, or showed that and then pressured off of it. I don’t think there’s any question you’re going to see a very aggressive approach by Virginia Tech.”
There will be times when that aggressive approach results in busted plays at the line of scrimmage. Other times they will blitz themselves out of position. If Bowden weathers the storm and creates explosive plays when the opportunities arise, Virginia Tech will be the eighth team that does not have an answer for Bowden Ball.