Xavier Nwankpa and Cooper DeJean each nabbed a pick-6 to headline a masterclass defensive performance that propelled Iowa to a 21-0 victory over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
It was the fourth bowl victory in the past six years for the Hawkeyes (8-5), who lost to the Wildcats (7-6) in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
DeJean’s interception with 1:36 left in the first half sent the Hawkeyes into the break with a commanding 21-0 lead that Kentucky never came close to overcoming. The Wildcats were outgained 206-185, were forced to punt 10 times and never reached the red zone.
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Jack Campbell racked up a game-high 10 tackles for Iowa.
Joey Labas provided the only offensive touchdown of the afternoon when he connected with Luke Lachey for a 15-yard score early in the second quarter.
Labas completed 14 of 24 passes for 139 yards, and Lachey finished with three receptions for 36 yards. Sam LaPorta was the Hawkeyes’ leading receiver, hauling in five catches for 56 yards.
Seven Iowa rushers combined to tally just 67 yards on 24 carries.
Destin Wade tallied 98 yards and a pair of interceptions on 16-for-30 passing and rushed for 29 yards on 16 carries for Kentucky. Dane Key had six catches for 47 yards.
Defense dominated the first 15 minutes of action to set the tone for the entire game. Both teams combined to punt four times while totaling just 102 yards of offense in a scoreless opening frame.
But then Iowa struck for two touchdowns in a span of 11 seconds to start the second quarter.
The Hawkeyes broke the stalemate thanks to their tight ends, as Labas connected with LaPorta for a gain of 27 before tossing a short pass to Lachey one play later. Lachey scampered up the sideline and dove for the pylon, and the play stood upon review.
Nwankpa then picked off Wade on the first play of Kentucky’s ensuing possession and ran 52 yards to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 11:57 left before halftime.
–Field Level Media