116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — A closer look at the Citrus Bowl, where No. 22 Kentucky defeated No. 15 Iowa, 20-17.
Trailing 17-13, Kentucky had a second-and-10 at its 47, as the fourth-quarter clock neared 2:00.
Will Levis threw the ball to Wan’Dale Robinson at the Iowa 33. Cornerback Riley Moss missed Robinson at the 20. Safety Jack Koerner was blocked to the turf at the 12. Robinson eluded safety Kaevon Merriweather at the 5. Defensive back Cooper DeJean tripped up Robinson at the 1.
A false start penalty on the Wildcats gave Iowa a little respite, but on first-and-goal at the 6, running back Chris Rodriguez eluded Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg and what would have been a 5-yard loss, then darted in the end zone with 1:48 to play for a 20-17 Kentucky lead.
Iowa took over at its 25. Six plays later, Spencer Petras was intercepted by linebacker DeAndre Square, and that was that.
By the numbers
4 — Kentucky earned its fourth-straight bowl win, tying Texas for the longest such current streak. Meanwhile, Iowa failed in its bid for a fourth-consecutive bowl victory.
9 — This was the ninth game in which Iowa trailed at the end of the first quarter. It won five of them.
16 — This was the 16th-consecutive nonconference win for Kentucky, breaking its tie with Iowa for the longest current streak in the FBS.
82 — It was 82 degrees at kickoff.
98 — Iowa running back Gavin Williams had a career-high 98 rushing yards and the Hawkeyes had 173.
122 — Hawkeye tight end Sam LaPorta had seven receptions for a career-high 122 yards.
170 — Robinson had 170 receiving yards on 10 catches, giving him 104 receptions this season.
You can’t pin it on a play, or maybe even one particular offensive or defensive possession. So let’s name several that formed the second-half mosaic that got the Hawkeyes back in the game after trailing 13-3 at halftime.
The second of the two Iowa TD drives in succession was capped by a Petras backside screen pass of maybe 3 yards to LaPorta, who found nothing but green until he neared the end zone thanks to a perfectly blocked play by his teammates.
Something mighty big for Iowa happened when the Wildcats had a fourth-and-1 at the Iowa 35 midway through the fourth quarter.
The handoff to running back JuTahn McClain looked like it would be stopped for a loss by Merriweather. McClain bounced away, but was brought down by VanValkenburg inches from a first down.
It was fitting it was VanValkenburg, since he had two quarterback sacks and shared another tackle for a loss.
After an Iowa three-and-out, Kentucky got the ball back at its 10 with 5:58 left. It advanced to the Hawkeyes’ 46, but then came three straight incompletions and an interception by sophomore cornerback Jermari Harris, who had a terrific game.
There was still 3:31 left, though, when Kentucky got the ball back one more fateful time.
* Levis wore shoes with the names of all the Dec. 10 Western Kentucky tornado victims. He plans to auction them off later, with the proceeds going to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.
Hawkeye All-America center Tyler Linderbaum was hurt with 6:11 remaining and was on the turf for a minute, then walked off the field very slowly as he was helped to the sideline with an apparent foot issue. He returned for his team’s last drive.
Iowa wide receiver Keagan Johnson was out. Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz said it possibly was a kidney stones or appendix issue.
Kentucky had several players out with either injury, COVID-19 or contact tracing. Among them were starting offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal and starting defensive end Joshua Paschal. The latter had 15.5 tackles for losses this season.
Also out was Wildcat linebacker J.J. Weaver, who had six sacks this season. No. 2 running back Kavosiey Smoke, linebacker Trevin Wallace, wide receiver Josh Ali and tight end Isaiah Epps also missed the game.
The Hawkeyes host South Dakota State on Sept. 3. The Jackrabbits went 11-4 this season and reached the NCAA FCS semifinals before falling 31-17 to Montana State.