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Wan'dale Robinson Shines as Kentucky Edges Past Iowa to Win 2022 Citrus Bowl

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2022

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Kentucky secured its fourth straight bowl victory Saturday with a 20-17 Citrus Bowl win over Iowa.

Down four in the final few minutes, Wan'Dale Robinson and Chris Rodriguez Jr. came through with great individual efforts to put the Wildcats on top:

Kentucky Football @UKFootball

WR1 <a href="https://twitter.com/wanda1erobinson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wanda1erobinson</a> taking over! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForTheTeam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForTheTeam</a> 😼 | 📺 - ABC 📲 - <a href="https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa">https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa</a> <a href="https://t.co/Gv4VqZdCJN">pic.twitter.com/Gv4VqZdCJN</a>

Kentucky Football @UKFootball

We've got <a href="https://twitter.com/CROD_JR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CROD_JR</a> and we've got the lead in the <a href="https://twitter.com/CitrusBowl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CitrusBowl</a>! <br><br>📺 - ABC 📲 - <a href="https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa">https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa</a> <a href="https://t.co/62dsg7XcsL">pic.twitter.com/62dsg7XcsL</a>

Rodriguez scored two touchdowns while Robinson had 170 receiving yards to key the Wildcats offense at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

Kentucky seemingly had complete control of the game early with a 13-3 halftime lead while allowing little defensively. Iowa couldn't produce much without star running back Tyler Goodson, who opted out of the game.

A second-half run gave the Hawkeyes the 17-13 lead, but it wouldn't last as Kentucky fought back for the dramatic win.

The Wildcats improved to 10-3, reaching double-digit wins for the second time in the last four years under Mark Stoops. The team won 10 games in a season just twice in school history before 2018.

Iowa (10-4) was also seeking its fourth straight bowl win but fell short after Spencer Petras threw three interceptions.


Notable Performances

Will Levis, QB, UK: 17-28, 223 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB, UK: 20 carries, 107 rushing yards, 2 total TDs

Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, UK: 10 catches, 170 receiving yards

Spencer Petras, QB, IOWA: 19-30, 211 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs

Gavin Williams, RB, IOWA: 16 carries, 98 rushing yards

Sam LaPorta, TE, IOWA: 7 catches, 122 receiving yards, 1 TD


Wan'Dale Robinson Stars for Kentucky in Comeback Win

Kentucky went almost the entire second half without scoring, but Wan'Dale Robinson was a true difference-maker offensively.

Even though the receiver didn't get into the end zone, he had several key catches on long third downs to move the chains.

Kentucky Football @UKFootball

This catch on 3rd-and-26 by <a href="https://twitter.com/wanda1erobinson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wanda1erobinson</a> 😱 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SCtop10?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SCtop10</a> <br><br>📺 - ABC 📲 - <a href="https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa">https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa</a> <a href="https://t.co/6Eoy7cTz1M">pic.twitter.com/6Eoy7cTz1M</a>

Josh Moore @JoshMooreHL

Hell of a throw, and great effort by Robinson to get it at the end.

Kentucky Football @UKFootball

WOW <a href="https://twitter.com/wanda1erobinson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wanda1erobinson</a> 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-10! <br><br>📺 - ABC 📲 - <a href="https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa">https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa</a> <a href="https://t.co/NLxIN7CGt1">pic.twitter.com/NLxIN7CGt1</a>

He then saved his best for last with an outstanding effort on the final offensive drive of the game.

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

Wan'Dale Robinson accounted for 86 yards on Kentucky's 80-yard TD drive (there was a sack in there). Didn't get to finish it, but my goodness.

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Wan'Dale Robinson putting Kentucky on his back. Dude is electric. Been amazing all day. He has 170 of the Cats' 233 passing yards.

Joshua Skinner @JoshuaSkinnerTV

This is one of the gutsiest individual efforts I’ve seen in a long time by Wan’Dale Robinson.

Robinson brought Kentucky to the 1-yard line before Rodriguez scored the go-ahead touchdown.

It lifted an offense that had struggled for much of the game after a hot start. 

The Wildcats looked good early with an efficient opening drive to grab the early lead.

Kentucky Football @UKFootball

SET THE TONE, <a href="https://twitter.com/will_levis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@will_levis</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/CROD_JR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CROD_JR</a> and the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BigBlueWall?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BigBlueWall</a>! <br><br>13-play, 80-yard TD drive on our first possession to take a 7-0 lead.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForTheTeam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForTheTeam</a> 😼🏈 <a href="https://twitter.com/CitrusBowl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CitrusBowl</a> on 📺 - ABC 📲 - <a href="https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa">https://t.co/5ncAcBLPTa</a> <a href="https://t.co/hlqRTGPFaA">pic.twitter.com/hlqRTGPFaA</a>

In addition to the opening touchdown, Kentucky had two more drives deep into Iowa territory before settling for field goals.

This success did not continue as Iowa ramped up the defensive pressure. The absence of left tackle Dare Rosenthal helped expose a Wildcats offensive line that struggled throughout the game. 

Jon Hale @JonHale_CJ

Will Levis already sacked for third time. Not clear how many of those have been affected by OL shuffling with Dare Rosenthal out, but it can't have helped.<br><br>Kenneth Horsey and Jeremy Flax have split time at LT.

Kent Spencer @WHAS11Kent

When Kentucky doesn't have success on 1st down.... Iowa's defense is attacking their offensive line.... 5 sacks so far on the day.... and they just heated Levis up on that 3rd down.

Tyler Greever @Tyler_Greever

Iowa has 5 sacks today. That's the most Kentucky has given up all season.

Iowa finished with seven sacks on the day, leading to stalled drives and wasted opportunities for the Kentucky offense.

The skill players still did their part, with Rodriguez topping 100 rushing yards for the fifth straight game and Robinson coming up with big catches all game long.

It was enough to come away with a win despite an up-and-down showing from the offense.


Second-Half Burst Not Enough for Iowa

There were low expectations for Iowa offensively, and the first half showed why.

The team was trying to overcome the loss of Goodson, whose 1,398 yards from scrimmage this season was more than double anyone else on the roster entering the day. There was also uncertainty at quarterback with the team waiting to announce the starter between Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla.

Petras got the start, but it didn't seem to matter as the offense couldn't move the ball and was held to just three points at halftime.

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

Kentucky up 13-3 on Iowa at halftime of the Citrus Bowl. <br><br>Just remembering that Iowa rose to No. 2 in the country at one point this season. This remains a comically bad offense.

Matt Lindner @mattlindner

Iowa’s offense is offensive

Matt Chatham @chatham58

If the Iowa defense could somehow play the Iowa offense, the Iowa offense would move backwards each series until they ended up in the stands.

With two turnovers and several more miscues, it was an ugly showing.

Things turned around in the second half as the offensive line cleared space on the ground for an effective rushing attack. The play-calling also got more creative for a pair of long touchdowns.

Jon Hale @JonHale_CJ

Iowa scores the TD that has felt like it was coming for some time.<br><br>20-yard run on a third-and-5 on an end-around. No UK player touched him on the way to the end zone.<br><br>Kentucky 13, Iowa 10 (3:21, 3Q).

Tyler Greever @Tyler_Greever

Iowa is mauling up front and UK is looking tired on defense. Screen play to LaPorta goes 36 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Hawkeyes lead 17-13.

John Clay @johnclayiv

Iowa did not have single play of 20+ yards in the first half. Hawkeyes have 3 in the second half. Two have gone for scores. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BBN?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BBN</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ukfootball?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ukfootball</a>

Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

A SUDDENLY VERY EXPLOSIVE IOWA OFFENSE

Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams picked up the slack in the run game, combining for 140 rushing yards.

It still wasn't enough to pull away in the fourth quarter.

Iowa chose to punt on a 4th-and-1 at their own 45 with 3:38 left on the clock, allowing Kentucky to score the go-ahead touchdown. When the Hawkeyes got one more chance to score, Petras threw his third interception of the game:

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

DeAndre Square with the INT for Kentucky to secure the victory! <a href="https://t.co/BvyP8qMbLg">pic.twitter.com/BvyP8qMbLg</a>

The mistakes were simply too much to overcome, even with a solid showing by the Hawkeyes defense.     

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