Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. landed a pregame punch on Virginia Tech's DeShawn Crawford before leading the Wildcats to a victory against the Hokies with a game-winning score at the 2019 Belk Bowl.
Bowden was seen arguing with a Kentucky assistant coach and several players before the Wildcats' 37-30 win Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Players from both teams had to be separated after the heated exchange. Bowden later shoved Kentucky assistant Josh Pruitt.
The altercation occurred outside of the one-hour window that officials had to eject Bowden from playing in the game. Bowden apologized after the exchange.
"There was a lot of emotion," Bowden said. "I could have hurt my team, not being out there tonight with them. I apologized to my program and my teammates before the game. We respect Virginia Tech. If I could go back, I wouldn't do it. But it's in the past, [we're] champions."
Kentucky trailed 30-24 with 19 seconds remaining when Bowden took a snap from the Virginia Tech 13-yard line. Bowden scanned the field before lobbing in a touchdown pass to Josh Ali. Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo then made the extra point to give the Wildcats their final advantage.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he did not have much interaction with officials during the pregame altercation. He said "things happened throughout the week" leading into the game.
"Let's just leave it at, when you are down here for a week, there is some crossover and things happen," Stoops said. "These guys are competitive but we do respect coach [Justin] Fuente and [Virginia Tech's] program. We wanted to do the talking on the field [Tuesday]."
Bowden completed 6 of 12 passes for 73 yards, one score and an interception in the win. He also had 233 yards and two scores on 34 carries. Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker completed 12 of 22 passes for 110 yards and two scores in the loss.