Kentucky Wins A Citrus Bowl Thriller

Cats Notch Fourth Straight Bowl Win

The ESPN family of networks must love the Kentucky Football team. During their six-year bowl streak, five of the games have gone down to the last minute. It was no different on Saturday as the Cats and Iowa traded the lead in the fourth quarter. However, as they’ve done previously UK pulled one out at the wire. Let’s recap it as Kentucky wins a Citrus Bowl Thriller 20-17.

A Fast Start

Mark Stoops’ club jumped out to an early lead as Will Levis hit Chris Rodriguez on a five-yard touchdown pass. A couple of Matt Ruffolo field goals gave the Cats a 13-3 halftime lead. Although, the Big Blue Nation was a little restless as UK should have punched one or both drives in for scores. In all honesty offensive coordinator, Liam Coen got too cute at the goal line and got away from Kentucky football. Long-time UK fans wondered if it would cost them the game, and it almost did.

Flipping The Script

Give Kirk Ferentz’s squad credit as they came out in the third quarter and dominated things. An Arland Bruce IV 20 yard touchdown run cut the lead to 13-10 with 3:21 left in the period. Following a Kentucky punt, Iowa marched right down the field again going 92 yards in nine plays. The capper came when Spencer Petras hit Sam Laporta on a beautifully set up 36 yards TD pass. Just that quickly Iowa took a 17-13 lead.

The Kentucky defense was gassed as the offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough for them to rest. Give the Hawkeye defense credit as Zack Vanvalkenberg spent as much time in the UK backfield as the Wildcat offensive line. On the day Iowa had six sacks playing against a Wildcat offensive line missing a couple of players due to COVID. As mentioned in the beginning Kentucky bowl games go down to the wire and this was no exception.

Saving The Best For Last

Kentucky had their chances early in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Meanwhile, they were stopped on a fourth and one, and when Levis was intercepted with 3:59 to go that seemed like a ball game. But faster than Lee Corso can say “not so fast my friends” Kentucky put together the game-winning drive. On a second and ten from the Wildcat 47 Levis hit Robinson and he broke the all-time season yardage record.

After a false start moved the Cats back five yards they gave the ball to Rodriguez who did the rest putting UK up 20-17.

Iowa got the ball back with one last chance playing against a tired defense missing both Josh Paschal and JJ Weaver. However, Brad White’s group had one more stop in them. Thanks to pressure from a Yusuf Corker blitz Petra’s pass never had a chance and was intercepted by DeAndre Square. The amazing thing is Square left the game with a leg injury, was ruled out, saw the team needed him, and not only went back in but ended up snagging the game-saving interception.

Linebackers coach Jon Sumrall, who was named as the Troy head coach wanted to coach Square one more time. He was very emotional afterward.

If you read our game preview we said turnovers would likely be a key factor. Iowa’s one of the best at forcing them and Kentucky’s one of the worst at committing them. However, they flipped the script as UK forced three Petras interceptions to only one for the Wildcats. That’s a big reason why Kentucky wins a Citrus Bowl thriller.

Rewriting The History Books

With the win, Kentucky finishes the season 10-3. It’s only the fourth time since 1950 UK’s accomplished that. Two of those have come in the last four years under Stoops. While they already equaled a school record with a sixth straight bowl they set a new mark with a fourth straight win. They also equaled their record at 3-3 in Florida bowl games. In fact they joined a very short list of schools with a four-game winning streak.

In addition, it’s another big day for the UK headman. With the win he now sits at 59 wins, only one away from tying Bear Bryant for tops in school history. Stoops currently sits at 59-53 at Kentucky. In fact, you must remember two games into his fourth season he was 12-26. In totally changing the program’s culture he’s gone 47-27 since.

On the other side of the ball, Iowa finishes the year at 10-4 and Big 10 West regular-season champions. Had the Hawkeyes won they would have been on that list with Alabama as they also had won three straight. Heading into 2002 you know Ferentz will have his team near the top again in 2022.

Some Big Decisions

Kentucky loses quite a bit from the 2021 team on both sides of the ball. A couple of key players have some choices ahead of them. While Levis announced he’s coming back next year both Robinson and Rodriguez have decisions to make. If it’s Wan’Dale’s last game then he certainly went out on a high note after being named Citrus Bowl MVP with 10 catches for 170 yards. For Rodriguez, he more than likely could use another year but the BBN will have to wait on what kind of feedback he gets.

Again Kentucky wins a Citrus Bowl thriller 20-17 over Iowa in what was an emotional game all around. Stoops of course played at Iowa along with his brothers under legendary coach Hayden Fry. Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football. Also a big tip of the cap to those who followed the UK team with us this season.