116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — So, Iowa went from No. 2 in the nation midway through the football season to No. 2 in the Citrus Bowl.
As drops go, that ranks with Iowa’s temperature from Christmas to New Year’s.
It’s left for the poets to decide if the Hawkeyes’ 10-4 record of the 2021 season was glorious overachieving or a glorious opportunity squandered. It probably was both.
It’s a game of numbers, though, and a numerical rule of college football is you lose more often than you win when you score 17 points. Iowa lost 20-17 to Kentucky here Saturday, and 17 was its highest score in its four defeats.
Yes, Iowa’s defense let Wan’Dale Robinson to run wild and free in the play of the game that highlighted Kentucky’s 80-yard touchdown drive.
That defense, though, held the Wildcats 77 yards under their average of 431 and 13 points under their season average of 33.
What made it harder to swallow from the Iowa side is the offense was good in the second half. It was perhaps the Hawkeyes’ best blocking of the season. Redshirt freshman running backs Gavin Williams and LeShon Williams were revelations, combining for 140 rushing yards and 5.4 yards a pop.
Looking outmatched when it trailed 13-3 and had just 90 yards over the game’s first 29 minutes, Iowa buckled down and moved the ball. There was a 50-yard touchdown drive to pull within 13-10, then a 92-yard scoring march capped by a 36-yard pass play to brilliant tight end Sam LaPorta on a back screen.
LaPorta caught Spencer Petras’ short pass 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The downfield blocking by Iowa’s offensive linemen was textbook, and punishing.
It suddenly felt like Iowa’s day, and even more so after two more defensive stops. It needed a third.
Kentucky took over at its 20 with 3:31 left after a Tory Taylor punt went 55 yards, and into the end zone. There was a third-and-10 at the 20 followed by a 17-yard pass to Robinson. Then, the fateful 52-yard play to the Iowa 1. It was Nebraska transfer Robinson’s 104th and biggest catch of the season.
“If you know anything about Nebraska, (Iowa) is a rival school for me,” Robinson said. “I have lost to them for two years in a row, so this one was a little bit more special, especially for the guys I played with out there.”
Iowa still had 1:48 left and one timeout, needing a field goal to tie. From the Kentucky 40, Spencer Petras wanted to pass to Ivory Kelly-Martin coming out of the backfield. Wildcat free safety Yusuf Corker was unblocked and charged Petras. He grabbed the lower part of Petras’ jersey and spun him a bit.
Petras’ throw sailed over Kelly-Martin into the hands of Kentucky linebacker DeAndre Square, who caught it while sprawling on the turf. Square entered the postgame interview room on crutches. He had been ruled out for the rest of the game, but wanted to return for one last stop.
“A guy’s coming off the edge and kind of disrupted me,” Petras said. “And it got away from me, and I just can’t really force it.”
So Petras gets dragged by Hawkeye Planet after the game and into the offseason.
After being the first Hawkeye to meet with reporters following Kirk Ferentz’s press conference, and answering each question straightforwardly, he had four parting words.
“See you next year.”
He is QB1 in Kirk Ferentz’s and Brian Ferentz’s offense, an offense that scored just 17 points even when it looked functional, an offense outgained this season by 351 yards. Yet, it somehow won 10 times.
That’s a neat parlor trick, but one you wouldn’t want to try twice.
“Obviously we have to score more points, and we are well aware of that,” Kirk Ferentz said.
“The (offensive) line is a good reference point there. I think we have been gaining ground.
“I don't think there are any magic answers right now. Just a couple conversions here and there, that type of thing, and it's a really fine line. We have got to keep pushing.”
The Hawkeyes were No. 2 through six games. They won the Big Ten West. There were a lot of fun and happy moments provided by this team. It certainly showed heart and fire Saturday.
But this game was an opportunity lost, making it a microcosm of this season. Winter in Iowa has arrived.
Comments: (319) 398-8440; firstname.lastname@example.org