A Subpar Sequel For Kentucky
You always hear talk in Hollywood that the sequel’s never as good as the original. For the occasional “Empire Strikes Back” or “Godfather 2” there are a ton of “Caddyshack 2’s.” When it was announced Kentucky and Iowa would have a sequel to their Citrus Bowl thriller 364 days earlier reaction was tepid at best. In fact, many pundits had it at the top of the must-watch list, for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t pretty for the Big Blue Nation but let’s break it down as Iowa wins the Music City Bowl 21-0.
With projected first-round draft pick Will Levis opting out of the game Mark Stoops turned to freshman Destin Wade to lead the squad. Playing against one of the best defenses in the country isn’t the best way to make your college debut. The Cats punted on their first four possessions however the UK defense kept them in the game. In fact, they turned Iowa over on downs on their first possession.
If you read our game preview, we said for Kentucky to have a chance they had to win the turnover battle. Unfortunately, that was not the case and a big reason why they lost. After Iowa got a 15-yard touchdown from Joe Labas to Luke Lachey disaster struck. On the next play, Xavier Nwankpa picked off a Wade pass returning it 52 yards to the house and just like that it was 14-0.
Just before the half lightning struck again with Kentucky pinned deep in their own territory. Cooper DeJean picked off another Wade pass and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown and it was 21-0 at the half.
Not Much Better
Unfortunately for Kentucky things didn’t improve in the second half. They punted on their first two possessions. Finally they got their best drive going of the evening getting to the Iowa 37. However on fourth down a Wade pass to Barion Brown was incomplete. That was the story of the day as the Iowa defense did a great job on the Wildcat freshman. He was targeted 15 times but only had five receptions for 24 yards.
Kentucky's offense today vs Iowa:
– Pick Six
– Pick Six
– Turnover on Downs
– Turnover on Downs pic.twitter.com/aBMAOzPG5m
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 31, 2022
One group that deserves a ton of credit is the Kentucky defense. While the offense couldn’t get anything going Brad White’s group kept it from being much worse. In fact, after Iowa’s scoring drive in the second quarter, the Hawkeyes did not get a first down until the midway through the fourth quarter.
The Kentucky defense forced eight three-and-outs and held Iowa to only 206 yards of offense. They nearly forced Iowa into as many punts (8) as they had first downs (10). Even with the performance Iowa wins the Music City Bowl 21-0.
With the loss, Kentucky finishes 7-6 and sees a couple of streaks end. They had held the longest current winning streak against non-conference opponents at 20. Ironically UK’s last loss came in Nashville when Northwestern beat them 24-23 in the 2017 Music City Bowl. Many may remember that’s the game Benny Snell got ejected for “bumping” a referee. Kentucky also sees their school record four-game bowl win streak end.
As for Iowa, they end 2022 8-5 and even the series with the Wildcats at one apiece. They also improve their bowl record to 18-16-1. Furthermore, Kirk Ferentz ties Joe Paterno’s record of 10 bowl wins by a Big 10 coach.
Both schools have things to be excited about next year. Kentucky picked up North Carolina State’s Devin Leary, the number one quarterback in the transfer portal. In addition, they have Ray Davis, a 1,000-yard rusher at Vanderbilt a season ago.
The Hawkeyes also have a new quarterback on tap as Cade McNamara comes over from Michigan. They should be a contender for the Big 10 in 2023.
Without Levis and Chris Rodriguez, who also opted out of the bowl, Kentucky’s chances against the Iowa defense were slim to begin with. Throw in a couple of pick-sixes and it made it impossible. Give Labas tons of credit for his performance on Saturday. With Spencer Petras injured and Alex Padilla in the portal, he managed the Iowa offense very well. On the day he completed 14 of 24 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Kentucky controlled the ball for 35 minutes and outgained them for most of the contest. It wasn’t until garbage time the Hawkeyes edged ahead. Put it all together and Iowa wins the Music City Bowl 21-0. That’s the first time UK’s been shut out since losing 21-0 at Georgia on October 19, 2019.
Thanks for checking out our game recap here at Last Word On College Football. Don’t forget we have previews and recaps of every bowl game leading up to the title game on January 9th.