Iowa shuts out Cats 21-0 to end Kentucky’s postseason winning streak


Isabel McSwain

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Destin Wade (15) throws a pass during the Kentucky vs. Iowa Music City Bowl football game on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. UK lost 21-0. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Luke Fetzer, Staff Writer

The Kentucky Wildcats (7-6) were defeated Saturday by the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-5) 21-0 off an impressive defensive performance which held the Kentucky offense to 185 total yards.

The loss snapped Kentucky’s five game postseason win streak and is the first postseason shut out for Kentucky’s offense in program history.

From the start, it was clear that the Kentucky offense, being lead by true freshman quarterback Destin Wade, was in for a challenge. 

Wade, who made his first collegiate start against a top-10 defense, struggled heavily collecting four sacks on the day. 

Head coach Mark Stoops knew that the Iowa defense would cause problems for the young quarterback, yet still kept faith in Wade, completing 16 out of 30 passes for 98 yards and two interceptions.

“They are still very physical and very tough up front, you know, so getting in big sets and playing smash mouth with them I think was going to be a very tough, tough spot,” Stoops said. 

The Wildcat offense’s first four drives ended in punts and only amassed a measly 48 yards. 

On the defensive side, however, the Cats showed real poise and cohesion. 

Similarly to Kentucky, Iowa turned the ball over on downs on its first drive, being forced to punt on the next two series. Those three drives by the Hawkeyes collected 55 yards, proving that defensive coordinator Brad White’s defensive scheme was working thus far into the game. 

Proud of his defense’s performance despite the result, Stoops praised the likes of linebacker Trevin Wallace, who led the team in tackles on the day. 

“Trevin and the defensive guys played pretty darn solid all day,” Stoops said. 

Wallace also commented on the defensive display, in which he credited mental toughness and togetherness. 

“Everybody’s coming together even though we were down,” Wallace said. “No matter what happened we are used to having our heads up cause some teams when they go down, they start packing up but we still had our foot on the petal.” 

Scoreless after the first quarter, Iowa came out firing thanks to a long catch-and-run by tight end Sam Laporta, breaking what looked to be seven or eight tackles to give the Hawkeyes the ball at the UK 15 yard line. 

The next play opened the scoring for Iowa as quarterback Joey Labas threw a short pass to Luke Lachey, who broke a tackle and took the ball in for the first touchdown of the game. 

Iowa doubled the lead soon after the Wildcats got the ball back to begin its second offensive drive of the second quarter capitalizing on a Wade mistake after he looked for freshman receiver Dane Key across the middle, but overthrew the ball, landing into hands of safety Xavier Nwankpa who took it in for a pick-six. 

After two more stagnant drives by the Kentucky offense, only gaining 24 collective yards, the Cats looked to perform the classic “two-minute drill” and attempt to salvage the game before halftime. 

While being forced out of the pocket, freshman wide receiver Barion Brown was open in the flat where Iowa cornerback DeJean Cooper read Wade’s eyes and jumped the route to take it to the endzone for their second pick-six in the quarter. 

Understanding the young quarterback’s struggles, Stoops offered support for the Tennessee native. 

“I saw a young man who has a bright future. Destin was put in a tough situation today,” Stoops said. “There’ll be a lot of armchair quarterbacks who sit back and want to critique this guy, but I’ll tell you right now, let him go back there and play against this defense and see how easy that is.” 

Despite his two mishaps, Wade said that he was confident under center, even though he had never taken a collegiate snap before. 

“I felt confident,” Wade said. “Just my coaches telling me it’s just like practice basically, I felt confident going in there, but it’s football, and things can go wrong or good that’s just how it is.” 

After the halftime break, both teams were continuously stalling on the offensive side of the ball with the Cats punting the ball five more times to bring the total to 10 punts on the day which is now a new Music City Bowl record. 

After going up 21-0, the Hawkeyes were forced to punt on four of their six second-half drives, bringing the Iowa punt total up to eight on the day highlighting the lack of offense for both squads. 

Nearing the end of the game, Stoops decided to swap Wade out for Deuce Hogan, who transferred from Iowa to Kentucky in the summer. 

While not intended to change the game, Hogan completed six of seven passes for 19 yards but still couldn’t ignite the offensive spark that the Cats desperately needed. 

Despite the outcome, Stoops took many positives from the game and for the future as well.

“We have a great group of guys. We have good coaches. We have great support to make changes when I have to even if I feel like I made a mistake, or for whatever reasons not working,” Stoops said. “Things are tough, but that part of it really excites me, because we have to go to work and it’ll need a lot of work.” 

With the defeat, the Cats fall to 7-6 to end the season following last season’s more impressive 10-3 record. The Wildcats also fall to 2-4 in Music City Bowl games and 12-10 in all-time bowl appearances.