CHARLOTTE — Everyone expected Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden to be the focal point of the team’s offense in the Belk Bowl.
Now he’s doing it with some added motivation after a dust-up with Virginia Tech players in the days leading up to the game, leaving the NFL-bound talent fuming.
“I ain’t talking about them, I ain’t talking about them,” Bowden said at the Belk Bowl media day event on Monday.
Virginia Tech’s brief run-in with Kentucky and its quarterback happened at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Tech players were instructed to head to their buses on Saturday morning after wrapping up lunch at track. The Hokies visited the facility for a NASCAR ride-along as part of the pregame festivities for the bowl game.
After a quick bite to eat, they were scheduled to hit their hotel in Uptown Charlotte about 15 minutes away from the speedway before leaving again for practice.
Tech’s four buses sat idling back where they dropped players off for the ride along. The Hokies started their trek across the paved infield of the track just as Kentucky arrived by the lunch area and needed to take the same route to their photo op.
It was the only time during the run-up to the game — both teams arrived in Charlotte on Dec. 27 — with the teams in the same spot and there was an exchange of pleasantries.
A video posted to social media showed a small group of unidentified Tech players yelling obscenities at Kentucky players including Bowden.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the operations people from both teams kept players moving toward their respective destinations. There were no physical altercations, and the whole incident lasted a couple of minutes at most. It was a non-issue for bowl organizers.
Many Kentucky players were lining up around a dais behind a UK-themed stock car and didn't know anything happened, while some Tech players were already on the bus when the incident happened.
A source confirmed that no disciplinary measures were handed down for Virginia Tech players involved.
The exchange took on a bigger spotlight on Monday when Bowden said his “trip was ruined a little bit” by the encounter. He refused to discuss Virginia Tech on multiple occasions during the 45-minute session with reporters and wouldn’t even refer to Virginia Tech by name.
Bowden’s teammate Kash Daniel, who was one of the players that didn’t know about the exchange until later, was a little more forthcoming on the topic.
“If certain people want to come run their mouth to certain people on my team, I’m going to stick up people from my team,” Daniel told Louisville-based TV reporter Rick Bozich. “... Once it happens, you turn it into motivation.”
The incident at the track wasn't indicative of how Tech has spoken publicly about Bowden leading up to Tuesday's noon kickoff. Coach Justin Fuente spent much of his time with the media on Monday praising Bowden and what he has accomplished after changing positions midway through the season.
“I don’t think he’s got the credit he deserves on a national level for making the switch,” Fuente said. “He’s doing it more than running it up the middle. He’s running the show on offense. He strikes me as an intense competitor. I don’t know the young man personally, but watching his film. He’s been fantastic.”
Bowden took over as starting quarterback in Week 7 after Kentucky suffered multiple injuries at the position. The Wildcats rebuilt their offense around Bowden’s skills as a playmaker carrying the ball. He has 151 carries for 1,235 yards with 11 touchdowns and all but 99 of those yards came with him at quarterback.
He’s also 29 of 62 passing for 330 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Just a dynamic athlete,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “And he’s first-team All-American utility. He won a national award recognized for that. Just really special. Has breakaway speed, has great vision, great strength.”