Iowa quarterback Joe Lavas, 5, celebrates with his teammates after Iowa’s victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)
NASHVILLE — Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops summed up his team’s 21-0 loss to Iowa in the Music City Bowl in six words.
“Today Iowa won by being Iowa,” he said at the postgame press conference at Nissan Stadium.
The Hawkeyes’ defense outperformed their offense for the fourth time this season.
Iowa’s 10 first downs were barely more than eight punts.
Iowa only had a 206-185 advantage in total yards, but won by a comfortable 21-0.
Debut of ‘Broadway Joe’
Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Lavas, or as tight end Sam LaPorta dubbed him “Broadway Joe,” had no easy circumstances getting into the Music City Bowl.
Lavas will move from third-string quarterback serving as scout team rep to Iowa in December in a system that former Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla said takes 12 to 18 months to “learn the complexity.” Became the state’s No. 1 quarterback.
Still, Lavas performed admirably in his debut, going 14-for-24 for 139 yards with one touchdown.
When Lavas did not connect to his intended target, the throw was often on target and not in serious danger of being intercepted.
Aside from Iowa’s final drive, he had seven imperfections. was hit by
The redshirt freshman’s performance still had some flaws.
Lavas was 0-3 on Iowa’s final drive. He overshot his 6-foot-6 tight end Luke Lachey his twice, and his one miss was deflected by a nearby Kentucky defender.
He also completed two 2-yard third downs early in the game when Iowa needed 5 and 8 yards, respectively.
However, Lavas posted a higher completion percentage than Spencer Petras and Padilla in 2022, but faced a defense that was awarded only 19.2 points per game.
Lavas didn’t turn the ball over either, but Iowa coach Kirk Ferencz later said it was “easier said than done.”
Kentucky’s Top WR No Fly Zones
Kentucky was the team with the most runs in 2022 — they had 464 rushing attempts and 349 passing attempts in 13 games — but the Music City Bowl was an exception.
Kentucky threw the ball 30 times and ran 28 times, excluding sacks. It was no coincidence.
“We felt we needed to spread it out a little bit,” says Stoops. “We weren’t exactly the same team as we were a year ago. They’re still very physical and very tough up front, so I think it’s going to be a difficult place to hit big sets and play smashmouth. increase.”
Many of the alternatives to “smashmouth” football turned out to be Kentucky quarterback Destin Wade trying to find star wide receiver Baryon Brown.
However, Iowa cut off Wade and Brown’s connection.
Wade aimed Brown 16 times, but the former five-star recruit only pulled on five catches. All five completions were either behind the line of scrimmage or within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Game footage shows it was the result of multiple defensive backs. Sebastian Castro, Cooper DeJean, Riley Moss and Xavier Nwankpa all made stealing plays.
Dejan made the most eye-catching play when he easily jumped Wade’s throw to Brown and returned it for a touchdown.
Play-by-play commentator Matt Barry told ABC, “Cooper DeJean read it from a mile away.
Kentucky also tried to reel Brown into the ground, but to little avail. Brown failed to reach the line of scrimmage on either rush.
The frustration was evident, as at one point Brown issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Deontae Craig Quietly Hits Big Numbers
Pick 6s from DeJean and Nwankpa grabbed the spotlight, but another underclassman on the defense quietly put in a notable performance.
Defensive lineman Deontae Craig took 3.5 tackles in the loss and recorded one strip sack.
Craig’s sack on Kentucky’s drive stopped the momentum as Great Britain tried to score a point before halftime while the fumble went out of bounds.
The Wildcats had just trailed by 12 and 9 yards and were closing in on Iowa territory. They were about 20–25 yards short of field goal range with two timeouts with 26 seconds remaining.
Mobile Wade escaped his pocket, but Craig caught up with him and bagged him. Kentucky ran the ball on the next play, essentially waving the white flag for the drive.
Craig finished the 2022 season leading the team with 6.5 sacks. His 10 tackles are second only to Lucas Van Ness’s 10.5 tackles, despite having significantly fewer snaps than many of Iowa’s other defensive linemen.