CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In a chaotic, exciting sea of euphoria and raw emotion at Bank of America Stadium, Lynn Bowden Jr. had tears streaming down his eyes. His eyes red, he softly sobbed tears of joy with his toddler son, Lynn Bowden III, by his side and his teammates embracing and mugging him in extreme joy.
Fans cheered on Bowden as he gave them high-fives down from the field to the stands. He expressed his gratitude and love for Kentucky and its loyal fans, who cheered him on from the beginning until the very end of his career, during the Belk Bowl MVP presentation.
"I've got to show my love for them [the fans] just as they love me. I wouldn't feel right if I just left, especially my last game. I want to make sure everybody feel love from me," Bowden said.
This moment was unlike any other for Bowden. From winning weekly honors, winning a VRBO Citrus Bowl, scoring touchdowns in every way imaginable and winning the Paul Hornung Award among many other accolades, nothing could compare to this moment. In this moment, Bowden was once again a champion - this time, a Belk Bowl Champion.
But, this time, he was a leader, hero and and MVP as he rode off into the sunset to venture a future in the NFL.
Bowden ended his Kentucky football career as the official Belk Bowl MVP after leading his team in a go-ahead drive during the game's final minute as the Cats defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies, 37-30, in nail-biting fashion on Tuesday afternoon.
Down 24-30 with 8:15 remaining in the game, Bowden led his team to a 15 play, 85 yard, 8:00 drive that culminated with him throwing a go-ahead 13-yard touchdown to wide receiver Josh Ali in the back of the end zone to put the Cats ahead for good.
Ali ran a post pattern while Bowden tried to buy time to find him open. With the right timing, luck and play design, Ali was able to haul in the golden catch. Yet, amazingly, while the play was designed to be a pass play from the beginning, it wasn't initially designed for Ali.
"It was really supposed to go to Ahmad Wagner. But, he came over to me before the play and told me to run over to a post and get open. And that’s what I did," Ali said. "He [Lynn] trusted me and threw the ball."
Ali's touchdown catch was only his third this season and his fourth in three years at Kentucky as he finished the game with four catches, 52 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
Meanwhile, Bowden shined per usual and finished the game rushing for 233 yards on 34 attempts and two touchdowns whilst throwing 6-for-12 and 73 yards and the golden touchdown pass. The go-ahead touchdown pass was only his third this season, a rare deviation from his usual running abilities.
For head coach Mark Stoops though, he says that the play design made sense in that particular situation.