The Kentucky Wildcats reward for turning around their season after a slow start is a trip to the 2019 Belk Bowl where they will face Virginia Tech.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Make the game about Bowden
Lynn Bowden needs to make his last game for the Wildcats be all about him. The Virginia Tech rushing defense has been strong all season long, but there is one notable exception to that strength. In the game against Virginia, Cavaliers QB Bryce Perkins rushed 19 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Perkins isn’t the runner Bowden is, so getting the best player on the field some space to work in should be doable. No one has stopped Bowden since he became the man at QB – he even went for a yard shy of 100 against Georgia – so there is no reason to change the game plan against the Hokies.
Win the battle of field position
Va Tech has good special teams play. Kentucky has outstanding special teams play. Max Duffy won the Ray Guy award for his punting and he averaged almost 49 yards per kick. He is also exceptional at getting the ball to sit inside the 20-yard line, giving the Kentucky defense a great platform to work with.
The Wildcats can’t afford to turn the ball over. As good as Bowden is – and he is really, really good – this is an offense built for being ahead of the chains in plus field position. Achieving that through the kicking game and turnovers will pit the Wildcats in a great position to win.
Stop Hendon Hooker
Hooker is a 6-foot-4, 228-pound freshman QB who took over after the Hokies had a rough September and hasn’t looked back. He has passed for 1,445 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season with only two interceptions and he is good enough to give the Kentucky defense problems here.
The Wildcats need to get into the backfield early to disrupt Hooker’s ability to impact the game. He isn’t a QB who will go down with a glancing blow, so the hits have to be true and firm to take the big man off of his feet.