Recap: Iowa football loses to Kentucky 20-17 in the Citrus Bowl

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

The 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl was a heck of a great game, with momentum swings and thrilling, crunch-time drives from either team. 

But that matters very little to the Hawkeyes and their fans, who will fly back to Iowa with a 20-17 loss to Mark Stoops and the SEC's Kentucky.

The Hawkeyes had their destiny in their own hands, with the ball and a timeout, starting at their 25, down 20-17, with 1:48 left to win the game. And the drive started with promise. Iowa advanced to the Kentucky 40 with 48 seconds left. But then, Spencer Petras threw an errant pass into the diving arms of DeAndre Square at the Wildcats' 26.

Game over.

Here's how it happened.

1:48 Q4: Kentucky 20, Iowa 17

That was just a heck of a drive by Kentucky, highlighted by Wan'Dale Robinson's 52-yard catch-and-run to give him 17 catches for 170 yards so far today. Chris Rodriguez Jr. finished off the eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 6-yard rushing score.

Now, can Iowa's much-maligned offense, which has performed considerably better in the second half than it did the first, win the game for this defense?

Also: Tyler Linderbaum is back in the game.

3:31 Q4: Here we go

Iowa went three-and-out. It tried to draw Kentucky offside on a fourth-and-1 but it didn't work so Tory Taylor punted. Now, the Wildcats get the ball, down 17-13, at their own 20 with 3:31 remaining.

Also: Tyler Linderbaum walked on his own power out of the locker room and didn't appear to be limping quite as much.

3:59 Q4: Can Iowa hold on?

The Hawkeyes forced Kentucky to go for it on a fourth-and-10 from the Iowa 46, and Jermari Harris picked of Will Levis at the Hawkeyes' 36-yard line. Now ... can Iowa's offense milk some more clock? Kyler Schott is now in at center with Tyler Linderbaum out of the game.

5:58 Q4: Iowa 17, Kentucky 14

The Hawkeyes tried to go up-tempo on third-and-short but failed to convert on a LeShon Williams rush, and they were forced to punt.

Also: All-American center Tyler Linderbaum went down with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury and he is now walking gingerly to the locker room.

7:13 Q4: Iowa 17, Kentucky 14

Big-time defensive stand from Iowa. Zach VanValkenburg yanked Kentucky running back JuTahn McClain backward to keep him from crossing the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-1 at the Iowa 35, and now the Hawkeyes take over with a chance to milk the clock a bit.

10:54 Q4: Iowa 17, Kentucky 14

This game is now Iowa's to lose.

Excellent play call from Brian Ferentz. A hard play-action on second down, then a little screen to Sam LaPorta running behind Mason Richman and Tyler Linderbaum as lead blockers. It worked to perfection for a 36-yard touchdown pass.

What a drive — nine plays, 92 yards, 3:15 of clock. Iowa has looked like an entirely different team in this second half.

14:09 Q4: It feels like momentum is swinging

Big plays from Jack Campbell spearheaded Iowa's defensive effort to stall Kentucky near midfield, and now the Hawkeyes take over at their 8-yard line, down 13-10.

And Gavin Williams starts the drive with a 19-yard run.

Can you say momentum swing?

3:21 Q3: Kentucky 13, Iowa 10

We've got ourselves a game, folks.

Good things usually happen when Arland Bruce IV, who was an All-Iowa Elite Team running back in his senior season at Ankeny, gets the ball in the backfield. The true freshman capped a six-play, 50-yard drive with a 20-yard rushing score on a jet sweep, a play that's traditionally been kind to the Hawkeyes.

LeShon Williams also logged two carries for 20 yards on that drive. Iowa already has 119 total yards in the second half, which nearly matches their whole first-half total.

7:47 Q3: Maybe this just isn't Iowa's day

Iowa's defense came out of the half well and forced a Kentucky punt.

The the offense responded with its best drive of the day, featuring a gorgeous 34-yard completion from Spencer Petras to Sam LaPorta and 27 hard-earned yards from Gavin Williams on three carries.

But on a fourth-and-inches at Kentucky's 11, the Hawkeyes were aggressive and wanted the touchdown ... but Petras and Tyler Linderbaum couldn't connect on the snap and Petras fell on the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

Seven plays, 69 yards ... no points.

Oh my goodness ...

This stat from Register columnist Chad Leistikow is damning.

Halftime: Kentucky 13, Iowa 3

The Hawkeyes were able to gain a few chunks of yards, to get close enough for a last-second Hail Mary from Spencer Petras. It was intercepted. To halftime we go, and the Wildcats start the second half with the ball.

Petras went 10-for-16 for 82 yards and two interceptions. Gavin Williams led the backfield with five carries for 25 yards.

This half has been pretty much all Kentucky, with the Wildcats out-possessing Iowa 19:22 to 10:38. They're also 4-for-7 on third-down attempts, while Iowa is 0-for-4.

0:42 Q2: Kentucky 13, Iowa 3

Another save from the Hawkeye defense.

After a disastrous first play that saw Kentucky log a 10-yard run and get an extra 10 yards to Iowa's 11, the Hawkeye defense shored up and forced the Wildcats to settle for another field goal after they intercepted Patras at the 31.

2:09 Q2: From bad to worse

Spencer Petras' second-and-11 pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted, and Kentucky will take over at Iowa's 31-yard line.

2:48 Q2: Kentucky 10, Iowa 3

Oh dear ... that was painful for Hawkeye fans.

Zach VanValkenburg and Joe Evans secured back-to-back sacks to force Kentucky into a third-and-26 from its 46-yard line. Then ... Will Levis connected with Wan'Dale Robinson for a 34-yard completion down the middle, right in the hole of Iowa's defense.

The Hawkeyes were able to force the Wildcats into a 21-yard field goal, so that was a win. But still, not getting off the field on a third-and-24 is rough.

It was another long, methodical drive — 14 plays, 72 yards, 8:15 of time.

Temperature in Orlando for the Citrus Bowl

My goodness, it's hot down there. On-field temperatures are well above 100 degrees in Orlando, Florida, at Camping World Stadium for the Citrus Bowl.

Not quite the 10-degree winter weather we're getting here in Iowa, eh?

11:03 Q2: Kentucky 7, Iowa 3

Iowa's offense showed some good things on a scoring drive that led to a 28-yard field goal from Caleb Shudak.

The Hawkeye drive lasted 10 plays and spanned 55 yards and took up 4:41 of clock. They had a first-and-10 from Kentucky's 11 but were only able to gain 2 yards from there, which led to the field goal.

Still, Spencer Petras had two completions of 10-plus yards (15 to Luke Lachey and 13 to Sam LaPorta) and the offense didn't face a third down until Kentucky's 11-yard line.

End of 1: Kentucky 7, Iowa 0

The Hawkeyes ended that first quarter with arguably their two most convincing offensive plays of the day. On first down, Spencer Petras rolled to his right and hit Luke Lachey in stride for a 15-yard gain. Then Gavin Williams muscled his way for an impressive 8-yard gain. Iowa needs a lot more of that type of effectiveness against this Kentucky defense.

0:44 Q1: Big stand from Iowa's defense

The Hawkeye defense responded in a big way on their second time on the field, forcing a Wildcat three-and-out that featured a tackle for loss on the first play and a Zach VanValkenburg sack on third down.

Iowa takes over near its 35.

2:52 Q1: Wildcats' offense back on the field ...

... and they'll take over at their 22 after Tory Taylor's 43-yard punt.

This second Hawkeye drive lasted five plays and gained 22 yards (although 10 came on a third-down pass interference) and spanned 2:40 of clock. Gavin Williams, LeShon Williams and Arland Bruce IV have taken the five total rushes and Spencer Petras is 3-for-5 for 18 yards so far.

Nothing hideous. But nothing effective, either.

5:32 Q1: Kentucky 7, Iowa 0

Well, that was not very difficult.

After Iowa's empty possession to start the day, Kentucky responded with a methodical 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ate up 7:28 of clock. Quarterback Will Levis capped it with a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Rodriguez Jr.

The Wildcats converted on two third downs — a third-and-3 at their 42 (they got a 5-yard run) and a third-and-4 at Iowa's 29 (they got a 14-yard completion).

13:31 Q1: Empty possession for Iowa to start

Nothing doing on the Hawkeyes' first possession. Spencer Petras started with a 12-yard completion to Sam LaPorta on the game's first play, but Iowa went three-and-out from there. Kentucky will take over at its 20 after Tory Taylor's punt went into the end zone.

15:00 Q1: Petras confirmed

Spencer Petras was on the field for the first snap. Start question, answered.

Iowa football vs. Kentucky prediction

Looking for some pregame reading? Here's Register columnist Chad Leistikow with his prediction for the Citrus Bowl.

Who will be Iowa's starting quarterback?

There was a lot of talk about whether it'd be Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla behind center for the Hawkeyes today. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has kept things close to the vest with his signal-callers, but it's looking like Petras, who started the season as the starter and ended the season as the starter, will get the nod.

Who isn't playing for Iowa?

Star running back Tyler Goodson opted out of the Citrus Bowl for the Hawkeyes as he prepares for the NFL Draft. Freshman receiver Keagan Johnson has also been ruled out for the Citrus Bowl.