A late drive by No. 22 Kentucky sealed the Wildcat victory over the 15th-ranked University of Iowa football team in the 2022 VRBO Citrus Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Camping World Stadium.
The Hawkeyes outgained the Wildcats (384-354), but Kentucky controlled the turnover margin (3-1) and time of possession (37:54-22:06).
Junior Spencer Petras finished 19-of-30 for 211 yards. Junior Sam LaPorta led the team with seven receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt freshman Gavin Williams had 98 yards on 16 carries, while fellow redshirt freshman Leshon Williams had 42 yards on 10 carries.
Defensively, junior Jack Campbell finished with 14 tackles (four solo) and junior Seth Benson had ten tackles. Senior Zach VanValkenburg had eight tackles and two sacks, while redshirt freshman Jermari Harris had a pick for the third-straight game.
QUOTING COACH FERENTZ
“Really proud of our team, and I have been all season long. The effort these guys have put into this thing and how they have played, they have been a really cohesive team, so it has been a real honor to work with these guys day in and day out and that goes back to January. Really proud of the effort.”
“It’s a tough one. We left some things out there, particularly in the first half. The guys fought back at halftime and did a great job of competing and giving ourselves a chance to win. Whether it was not converting and getting a first down, or being able to hold them out of the endzone it came down to those two things.”
“In the first half we did a good job of getting two red zone field goals defensively, but we gave up a touchdown. Offensively we are down in there and came away with a field goal, and the stop. Little things like that start to factor in as you go along.”
“Jemari Harris has jumped in there and really played well. He has made a couple young-guy errors, but who doesn’t, and the most important thing is he learned from them. I see a lot of growth, really proud of him and pleased for him. He has earned the success he has had.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
After forcing an Iowa punt on the first possession, the Wildcat offense drove 80 yards over 13 plays on their first drive. They capped the drive off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Chris Rodriguez from Will Levis.
The Hawkeye defense forced a three and out for -8 yards forcing a Kentucky punt. The Hawkeyes drove 55 yards over 10 plays and senior Caleb Shudak got Iowa on the board with a 28-yard field goal.
The Wildcats answered with a 21-yard field goal after a 72-yard 14 play drive that included a long conversion on third and 26.
Kentucky got the ball back after Petras’ pass was tipped and D’Eryk Jackson pulled down the interception. The Iowa defense again held the Wildcats to a field goal as Matt Ruffolo hit from 28 yards.
The Hawkeyes scored the first points of the second half on a 20-yard end around rush by freshman Arland Bruce IV to put the finishing touch on a six-play 40-yard drive.
After forcing a Wildcat punt, Iowa drove down the field methodically with a nine-play 92-yard drive and took its first lead of the game with a 36-yard touchdown reception by junior Sam LaPorta.
Kentucky took the lead back after an eight play 80-yard drive, scoring on a six-yard rushing touchdown by Chris Rodriguez.
A Deandre Square interception with 0:48 seconds left sealed the game for the Wildcats.
LB Jack Campbell led Iowa with 14 tackles, tied for fourth most in Citrus Bowl history. Campbell had 143 tackles this season, the fifth-best single-season total in school history. The 143 tackles are the most by a Hawkeye since Pat Angerer had 145 in 2009. Campbell had five double-digit tackle performances (11, 18, 17, 16, 14) this season.
RB Gavin Williams set career highs with 98 yards rushing on a career-best 16 carries. Williams was Iowa’s leading rusher for the second straight game. Williams made his first career start. He is the first Iowa running back to have his first career start come in a bowl game since Jordan Canzeri made his first career start at the 2011 Insight Bowl against Oklahoma.
TE Sam LaPorta had a career-high 122 receiving yards and matched his career high with seven receptions. He is the first Iowa tight end to have 100 yards receiving since T.J. Hockenson in 2018 (107 vs. Indiana). LaPorta led Iowa this season in receptions (53) and receiving yards (670). He is the first TE to lead Iowa in receptions and receiving yards since T.J. Hockenson in 2018 (49-760).
K Caleb Shudak connected on his only field goal attempt (28 yards) and connected on both PATs Saturday. Shudak scored five points today, raising his season total to 108 points, the fifth highest single-season total in school history. This season, Shudak was 24-28 on field goal attempts and connected on all 36 PAT attempts. He finished his career 24-29 on field goal attempts, an 82.8 career percentage that ranks No. 1 in school history (minimum 25 attempts). His 85.7 field goal percentage in 2021 is the fourth best single-season percentage in school history (minimum 15 attempts).
WR Arland Bruce’s 20-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter is the longest rush of his career, and the third rushing touchdown this season.
RB Leshon Williams set career highs with 10 rushes and 42 yards.
Iowa had a season-high six sacks Saturday, including two by DL Zach VanValkenburg, who finished with eight tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.
LB Jermari Harris had a fourth-quarter interception, his fourth interception of the season. Iowa had one interception Saturday to raise its season total to a school-record 25. The Hawkeyes have 89 interceptions since 2017, more than any team in the country. Eleven different Hawkeyes had at least one interception this season. Four Hawkeyes have at least three interceptions this season (Belton 5, Moss 4, Harris 4, Hankins 3). The last time Iowa had four players with at least three interceptions in a single season was 2018 (Gervase 4, Hooker 4, Stone 4, Ojemudia 3).
Iowa’s streak of 15 straight wins against non-conference opponents was snapped Saturday. The nonconference win streak was the longest in the country. The loss was Iowa’s first nonconference loss since the 2017 Outback Bowl (Florida, 30-3).
Iowa played for a trophy for the sixth time this season. The Hawkeyes were 3-3 in trophy games this season and 25-7 in their last 32 trophy games (includes bowl games and conference championship games).
Iowa was plus-19 in turnover margin in its 10 wins and minus-seven in its four losses this season.
Kentucky won the toss and elected to defer. The Hawkeyes have played 288 games under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has opened the game on offense 214 times (136-78). The Hawkeyes have opened the game on defense 74 times (42-32).
Iowa opens the 2022 season hosting South Dakota State on Sept. 3 at Kinnick Stadium.