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Kentucky’s Phil Hoskins granted sixth season of eligibility

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The Kentucky Wildcats football program is the latest beneficiary of the NCAA’s never-ending benevolence and I almost finished typing that sentence with a straight face.

On his personal Twitter account Wednesday, Phil Hoskins confirmed that he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility from The Association.  The defensive tackle will graduate from the university in May, but still intends to play for the Kentucky Wildcats football program in 2020.

“Being injured has been very frustrating and draining,” Hoskins wrote. “I can’t wait to get back on the field this fall with my brothers.”

An academic suspension sidelined Hoskins for the first two games of the 2019 season. His first game back from that suspension, a knee injury suffered in the pregame of that contest ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Hoskins spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at the junior-college level.  He signed with the Kentucky Wildcats football program in 2017 and played in seven games that year.

In 2018, Hoskins played in all 13 games.  He was credited with 21 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and three sacks.

Prior to the academic issue that ultimately morphed into an injury one, Hoskins had been slated for a significant role in UK’s defense in 2019.  While that didn’t happen, Mark Stoops was already looking ahead to Hoskins potentially returning in 2020.

“If that happened, it would be pretty good for us,” the Kentucky Wildcats football head coach said in November of last year. “We spent some time in the last week, just with recruiting and looking at our roster … they’re all players. They all help, whether it’s on special teams or in the two-deep (depth chart). That kind of excites me, especially if you get the opportunity to get a guy like Phil back.”

Former Kentucky player, assistant Anwar Stewart returns as DL coach

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A very familiar face has returned to the Kentucky Wildcats football family.

Anwar Stewart, the program announced Friday, has been named by Mark Stoops as the Wildcats’ new defensive line coach.  Stewart replaces Derrick LeBlanc, who left to take a job at Arkansas.

Not only did Stewart (pictured, No. 55) play his college football at Kentucky from 1996-99, he was also a defensive assistant at his alma mater in 2017-18.

“It’s great when we can bring back former players and I’m excited to have Anwar rejoin our staff,” the Kentucky Wildcats football head coach said in a statement. “I loved the energy and juice Anwar brought to the team during his previous time here. He has been a player and coach on both the pro and college levels, so our players will benefit from his wide range of experience.”

Stewart spent the 2019 season as the defensive line coach at Appalachian State.

A CFL player for 13 seasons after leaving Kentucky, Stewart began his coaching career with the Montreal Alouettes.  After three seasons with the CFL team, Stewart returned to UK to both work with his old football program and finish his degree at the university.

“I’m very excited to return to where it all started for me,” Stewart said. “Coach Stoops is doing it better than it’s ever been done before at UK. I know his vision and I know what it takes to coach under him. I’m excited to learn from Coach Stoops, Coach (Brad) White and the other coaches on the staff. I know I will grow as a man and as a father as well.”

Kentucky’s second-leading rusher announces return in 2020

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One of Kentucky’s top running backs from the 2019 season will play one more season in Lexington. AJ Rose announced with a statement on his Twitter account on Thursday afternoon confirming he will suit up for Kentucky again next fall.

“Although playing in the NFL has always been my dream, I have decided to return for my senior year and help my brothers compete for the East and a SEC championship,” Rose said in his statement. “The Big Blue Nation is the best fan base in the country and you’ve always supported me and my back,” Rose added in his message to Kentucky fans.

Rose was Kentucky’s second-leading rusher in 2019 with 826 yards and six touchdowns. Rose will be a part of a talented running back unit for the Wildcats next season as Kentucky hopes to move their way up in the SEC East. Freshmen Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez will combine with Rose for a strong three-man running combo.

Lynn Bowden Jr. powers Kentucky to wild Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech

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For Virginia Tech and Bud Foster, the Belk Bowl didn’t provide the storybook ending they wanted to see.

Following a chippy first half, a last-minute touchdown pass powered Kentucky to a 37-30 win over Tech in the 18th Belk Bowl.  This will also be the final Belk Bowl as the title sponsor confirmed earlier this year that they were pulling out of the postseason game after 2019.

Lynn Bowden Jr., who began the season as a wide receiver before moving to quarterback due to injuries, connected with Josh Ali from 13 yards with 15 seconds left for the game-winning score.  It was Bowden’s sixth completion of the game and just his third touchdown pass on the season.

It was Bowden’s legs, though, that propelled UK to the win.

Bowden, who previously announced he’s leaving early for the NFL, ran for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the win.  The senior broke Johnny Manziel‘s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a bowl game. This was the sixth-straight game Bowden, named the Hornung Award winner as the nation’s most versatile player, has rushed for at least 100 yards.  In the regular-season finale against Louisville, Bowden put up 284.

The final margin was provided by Jordan Wright‘s 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown with no time left on the clock.

In a losing effort, Tech’s Deshawn McClease ran for 126 yards on just 11 carries.  Hendon Hooker also passed for a pair of touchdowns, with both of those coming in the first half.

Tech, incidentally, became the first team to score 30 or more points on Kentucky this season.

As for Foster, it was his last game as the Hokies’ defensive coordinator after 33 seasons at the school.  The school announced in August that Foster would be stepping down.

Foster began his three decades-plus tenure with the Hokies as inside linebackers coach in 1987.  In 1995, Foster was promoted to defensive coordinator, a post he’s held for the past 24 seasons.  He also continued coaching the team’s linebackers.

With the win, Kentucky improved to 8-5 on the season.  They now have 18 wins on the season, the most in any two-year stretch since 1976-77.

Virginia Tech finished the year 8-5 as well in Justin Fuente‘s fourth season at the school.

Pregame punches thrown as Kentucky, Virginia Tech hit halftime of chippy Belk Bowl

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To say that things are a little chippy at this year’s Belk Bowl would be a bit of an understatement.

Prior to this afternoon’s matchup between Virginia Tech and Kentucky, starting UK quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. was caught on video throwing a punch on VT defensive tackle DaShawn Crawford.  It was also reported that a punch was thrown at Bowden as well.

Myriad players had to be separated multiple times in the run-up to kickoff.  These dustups were preceded by an altercation at Charlotte Motor Speedway during an event involving both teams.  That altercation continued on social media in the days leading up to the bowl game.

Despite all of the pregame huffing and puffing and punching, there were no penalties assessed on anyone involved.

The chippiness continued on into the early portion of the game, with the Wildcats penalized 15 yards twice on the opening drive — one a personal foul, the other roughing the passer.

As far as the game goes, Tech has taken a 17-14 lead into the halftime locker room.  UK has 181 yards of offense; Bowden has accounted for 136 of those (90 rushing, 46 passing).

Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker has tossed a pair of touchdown passes the first two quarters.