The Perfect Ending to the Legacy of Lynn Bowden

by:Nick Roush12/31/19


Unbelievable. No matter how many times you saw Lynn Bowden do something amazing, he continued to shock the Big Blue Nation. For seven games he did it over and over. In his final game wearing the No. 1 Kentucky uniform, Bowden saved the best for last. Like the beginning of his Kentucky career, the Belk Bowl got off to a rough start before the action on the gridiron even began. Blows were exchanged a few hours prior to kickoff. Some fans wondered if he would even be able to play. Many of those same people wondered if Bowden would make it to campus in the summer of 2017. A late, dramatic arrival that was filled with ambiguous social media posts produced uncertainty that would eventually be replaced by big plays. As soon as he got his hands on the ball in Charlotte, Bowden made Virginia Tech pay. Trailing 3-0, a 60-yard touchdown by A.J. Rose was called back for a holding penalty. Despite the bump in the road, Kentucky persisted. Bowden accounted for 74 of Kentucky's 80 yards on the drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown run by QB1. For a moment, it looked like Kentucky was going to run away with the game. Dominant up front on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats' physicality could be felt throughout Bank of America Stadium. Then right on cue, adversity struck. Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente revved up the tempo, scoring back-to-back touchdowns in only seven minutes of game action. The Wildcats were on their heels, right where they are most comfortable. "This whole season's been adversity, so one or two things in a ballgame ain't going to affect us too bad. I mean we lost our starting quarterback second game of the year," Kash Daniel said after the game. "We've been through adversity all season. Just like Coach Stoops says, when adversity hits, don't flinch. Just punch it right back in the face." Kentucky punched back with another impressive drive by Bowden, who beautifully maneuvered UK's four-minute offense into the end zone with less than a minute to play in the half. Calvin Taylor's sack prevented Virginia Tech from extending their three-point lead. Out of the halftime locker room Bowden orchestrated a drive that would tie the game with a Ruffolo field goal. Right when you thought the Cats had Virginia Tech figured out, they suffered another setback. Like the Tennessee kick to the teeth, the Hokies hit Kentucky where it hurt. Tempo got the best of the Big Blue again, scoring in only four plays to retake the lead. It looked like they had discovered the Kryptonite to Kentucky's defense. Luckily, Bowden was there to save the day (again). That big play was the last flash of offense for a while. A promising drive ended with an A.J. Rose fumble. That was followed by a Lynn Bowden interception. Many fans could feel the nail in the coffin.

"Oh no. One more touchdown and Kentucky's done. Bowden doesn't have enough time to come from behind to win." 

The team never gave up. Brad White's defense forced Virginia Tech to settle for a field goal goal and punt on consecutive possessions. Those stops were enough to give the Kentucky offense one final attempt to score a game-winning touchdown. "We just banded together. We're all brothers -- we got in the huddle and said let's go make some plays and that's what we did," said Calvin Taylor. "It just epitomizes what Kentucky football is. This team is full of hard-workers. We just grind. At the end of the game we grinded it out to get the win. It went out in fashion that sums up our whole season." That final drive was Lynn Bowden's greatest masterpiece. With 8:25 to play and 85 yards to gain, he took one lick after another, marching the ball right through the heart of Bud Foster's defense. While the broadcasters marveled at the legendary coach, Bowden's legend grew. Facing a fourth and one, the entire stadium knew Bowden was going to keep it. Of course, he still got the first down. As the clock ticked with just seconds to play, Bowden kept his cool. Everyone expected him to score the game-winning play. Nobody expected it to be a pass. "Y'all said I couldn't throw." Bowden called his own number, then switched the play at the line of scrimmage. It worked perfectly, just like he knew it would. In his final game as a Wildcat, Lynn Bowden rushed for a bowl record 233 yards and two touchdowns on 6.9 yards per carry, and added 73 yards and a score through the air. The best of the best do not just rise to the occasion, they thrive in those moments where pressure crumbles the sturdiest of foundations. No matter what hand Bowden was dealt throughout his Kentucky career, he persevered. He made the ordinary, extraordinary. Down after down, hit after hit, he never quit. When his team needed him -- no matter the task -- Bowden was there to not just do the job, but do it better than anyone else who has ever worn a Kentucky uniform. Benny Snell had the perfect send-off in the 2019 Citrus Bowl. As Kash Daniel said in the Super Bowl commercial that aired weeks later, the only way to replace a legend is to become one. Lynn Bowden and the 2019 Kentucky Wildcats did exactly that.

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