Grading Iowa football’s 21-0 victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl

Daily Iowan Sports Editor Chloe Peterson provides a three-phase breakdown of the Hawkeyes’ bowl game performance.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive back Xavier Nwankpa combine to tackle Kentucky running back JuTahn McClain during the 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl between Iowa and Kentucky at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Campbell recorded 10 tackles, including a sack. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 21-0.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Iowa football took down Kentucky, 21-0, on Saturday in the Music City Bowl to end the 2022 season. With the win, the Hawkeyes avenged their 20-17 loss to the Wildcats in the 2022 Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022.

Iowa was missing both starting quarterback Spencer Petras and backup Alex Padilla in the bowl game on Saturday. Petras had season-ending surgery on his shoulder in November, and Padilla entered the transfer portal following the regular season. 

Redshirt freshman Joe Labas, who didn’t take a snap in a collegiate game before Saturday, got the start.

Following the final whistle, Sports Editor Chloe Peterson graded the Hawkeyes in all three phases of the game:

Offense — B

Labas didn’t look bad taking his first snaps in a Hawkeye uniform. He went 14-of-24 for 139 yards and a touchdown, avoiding critical mistakes in his first start. 

Still, Iowa’s offense fell flat. The Hawkeyes gained 206 total yards and put one touchdown on the board — a 15-yard pass from Labas to tight end Luke Lachey in the second quarter.

Iowa only had 67 rushing yards, and third-string running back Jaziun Patterson ended up the Hawkeyes’ leading rusher with 23 yards in garbage time. Starting running back Kaleb Johnson only gained 17 yards on nine attempts.

Senior Sam LaPorta was both a tight end and wildcat quarterback on Saturday, taking three consecutive direct snaps from center. He ended the day as Iowa’s leading receiver with 56 yards.

The Hawkeyes only made their way into Wildcat territory in five of their 12 drives. Eight of Iowa’s possessions ended with a punt. The Hawkeyes also turned the ball over on downs twice.

Defense — A+

Iowa’s defense not only pitched a shutout on Saturday afternoon — it also outscored its own offense.

The Hawkeyes completed the first shutout in the Music City Bowl’s 25-year history and became the first Big Ten team to hold an SEC team to no points in any bowl game.

 True freshman Xavier Nwankpa made his first start on Saturday, and he made it count with a career-high eight tackles. Nwankpa also intercepted Kentucky quarterback Destin Wade in the second quarter and returned the ball 52 yards to the end zone. It was his first interception and pick six in his collegiate career.

Sophomore Cooper DeJean joined the pick six party with fewer than two minutes to halftime. He picked off Wade and returned the ball 14 yards to put Iowa up 21 points. DeJean also had seven tackles — good for third on the Hawkeye roster.

Senior linebacker Jack Campbell also made his presence felt in his final game as a Hawkeye, leading Iowa with 10 tackles and one sack. Defensive linemen Deontae Craig and Yahya Black and defensive back Sebastian Castro also each recorded one sack.

Special teams — A+

Junior punter Tory Taylor was sharp on Saturday afternoon. He booted the ball eight times for 386 yards — an average of 48.3 per punt. Two of his punts soared more than 50 yards, and six were downed inside the 20-yard line.

DeJean was an integral piece of the field position battle, downing two of Taylor’s punts at the 2- and 6-yard line, respectively. DeJean, the MVP of the Music City Bowl, also gained 46 yards as a punt returner.

Freshman kicker Drew Stevens went 3-for-3 in extra points.