Lynn Bowden was on the sideline when one of his most significant contributions paid dividends.
The 2019 season finale was not a high-water mark for Brad White’s defense. Virginia Tech’s tempo put the Cats on their heels, scoring in less than six plays on three separate drives. The Hokies attacked the edge, racking up 219 yards on 6.6 yards per carry, the highest-mark by a UK opponent all season.
Entering the game White put an emphasis on defending 50-50 balls. Virginia Tech went to the well early and Kentucky’s best cornerback failed the first test. On third and nine from the 21-yard line, Hendon Hooker dialed up a fade to Damon Hazelton. UK cornerback Brandin Echols did not even turn his head to defend the touchdown pass.
Damon Hazelton. ?
— Football (@LaloFootball) December 31, 2019
On the following Virginia Tech possession, the Hokies went right back at Echols, this time on the ground. Typically an excellent run defender, Echols struggled to shed his blocks and make plays in open space. After ripping off three runs of 12 yards or more, Virginia Tech extended their lead to ten with a touchdown.
When Kentucky’s defense looked shell-shocked, Lynn Bowden was there to help with more points and words of encouragement.
“Football, everything happens for a reason,” Bowden recalled after the game. “Our defense gave up a (passing) touchdown or two the whole year? They got scored on today though. Like I told Brandin, it’s football, it’s bound to happen. People in the league (are) getting paid to get scored on, so it ain’t nothing.”
That advice paid off right when Kentucky needed it most.
Kentucky’s defense had not allowed more than 30 points all season. With 9:48 to play, Virginia Tech had 30 points and the ball. Another score might have been the fatal blow. Instead, UK forced a three and out to set up Bowden’s game-winning drive.
Virginia Tech needed a miracle to counter with only 15 seconds and 75 yards to go. After getting beat once before, Echols would not let it happen again.
The Hokies drew up a little tipsy-doo for their final scoring opportunity. It looked like they were just throwing it around, but it was all a part of a well-designed plan. The early laterals would suck in the defense, before getting the ball back to Hooker to completely flip the field to another player who had five blockers ready to spring him free.
Echols meticulously tracked each lateral from the backside before pouncing on Hooker, poking the ball free for Jordan Wright to scoop and score a touchdown.
Here is the last play of the game that resulted in a Virginia Tech fumble and @UKFootball touchdown by @JayyDubb15!!! #bbn #ksr #WeAreUK @gbbcountry @vaughtsviews @MrsTylerKSR @haydenhooper01 pic.twitter.com/2j2F1sRxIf
— Michael Rains (@RuppArenaMike) December 31, 2019
Echols got beat a few times early, but everyone gets beat. Football happens. The cornerback from Mississippi left Charlotte with the last laugh.
Shout out to JR for the heads up.