Iowa posts 1st Music City Bowl shutout, tops Kentucky 21-0
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Joe Labas threw for 139 yards and a touchdown on his first start and Iowa posted the first shutout in 24-year Music City Bowl history by beating Kentucky 21-0 on Saturday.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz capped his 24th season by tying the late Joe Paterno for the most bowl wins among Big Ten coaches with his 10th. It was the Hawkeyes’ second shutout in a bowl game, after the 1996 Alamo Bowl, and the first by a Big Ten team since Penn State defeated Texas A&M in the 1999 Alamo Bowl.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the world,” Ferentz said. “One thing I learned: if they can’t score, you have a shot you won’t lose. I know that. So if we could have written the script, that was perfect. Just really happy.
Iowa (8-5) got some reward for finishing last season by losing to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl after a late Wildcats comeback. The Hawkeyes defense outplayed their offense in this one, returning two interceptions for touchdowns in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes ended the season with their fifth win in six games.
Kentucky (7-6) lost for the third time in four games, this time without quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez, both of whom chose not to prepare for the NFL Draft. The loss ended the Wildcats’ school-record four-game winning streak.
“We were both shorthanded and a little outnumbered, and they did what they had to do to win the football game,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
The Hawkeyes scored all of their points in the second quarter to take control, scoring twice 11 seconds apart early in the quarter.
Taking his first shots in a college game with Spencer Petras with an upper body injury, Labas hit Sam LaPorta with a short pass that the tight end took 27 yards, pushing defenders. Labas then found Luke Lachey for a short pass, and the tight end completed a 15-yard touchdown with 12:08 left.
“I was a little nervous at first, but to get those (first three completions from the first disc), it really helped a lot,” Labas said.
Drew Stevens pushed the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, putting Kentucky at 35. Freshman Destin Wade, also making his college debut, was picked by Iowa safety Xavier Nwankpa, who ran for 52 yards for the 14-0 lead.
Bowl MVP Cooper DeJean beat Wade in third-and-10 Kentucky 7 and easily ran for 14 yards for a 21-0 lead.
“Our guys hustle each other when there’s a turnover,” Ferentz said. “They’re trying to do more than just, you know, get possession.”
The Hawkeyes didn’t miss All-American defensive back Kaevon Merriweather, who opted to prepare for the NFL Draft. They posted their second shutout this season, holding Kentucky to 185 yards while sacking Wade four times and forcing the Wildcats to turn him over twice.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes need to improve their offense, especially after losing All-American linebacker Jack Campbell. It was the Hawkeyes’ sixth game this season with 222 or less total rushing yards.
Kentucky: Stoops made it clear he wanted a look at the future by starting Wade at nearby Spring Hill, even with Devin Leary arriving through the transfer portal. Wade finished with 98 passing yards and 29 rushing yards as Kentucky was shut out for the first time since Oct. 19, 2019, in a loss to Georgia. The Wildcats are between offensive coordinators, and Iowa ranked sixth nationally, allowing just 14.4 points per game.
“He’s been put in a tough spot, so he’ll definitely learn from that,” Stoops said of Wade.
Ferentz shared after the game that Campbell’s grandfather died Friday night following a traffic accident. William Smith, 76, was walking with family members when he may not have heard the warning not to cross a street. He was hit by a van and pronounced dead at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Iowa officials said Campbell’s parents told him about his grandfather’s death after the game, “so Jack would have one last time to play with his Iowa Hawkeye teammates.”
Campbell led Iowa with 10 tackles and had one sack and two tackles for the loss.
Iowa: Hosts Utah State on Sept. 2 to begin the 2023 season.
Kentucky: Hosts Ball State on Sept. 2 to begin the 2023 season.
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