Nashville, Tenn. (Associated Press) – Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has no problem playing Iowa for the second year in a row, even though the Music City Bowl is nowhere near the Citrus Bowl, where his teams didn't finish last season.
Sure enough, the Wildcats came back late to win 20-17 and finish the season 10-3.
Iowa freshman Caleb Johnson remembers the loss well, even though he wasn't on the roster.
"I've seen everything and it makes me want to play harder and want to win," said Johnson, who has rushed for six touchdowns for the team and leads Iowa with 1,114 total yards.
Iowa (7-5) and Kentucky (7-5) finish their seasons at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Both teams are not qualified and each will lose several key players.
Kentucky will be without quarterback Will Lewis and linebacker Chris Rodriguez, and linebacker Kevin Meriwether opted not to join All-American linebacker Jack Campbell to lead the Iowa defense one last time. The trio chose to start preparing for the NFL draft in April.
Campbell didn't hesitate to play his final game for Iowa State and head coach Kirk Ferenc, who tied the late Joe Paterno (10) for the most wins among Big Ten coaches.
"When I sign my national letter of intent, I'm healthy or I'm going to play because I've signed every game I can play," Campbell said.
This is Iowa's first trip to the Music City Bowl, while Kentucky is making its sixth appearance. The Wildcats are looking to finish this season with their fifth straight win and fourth straight in five seasons.
Without Lewis, Kentucky won't bring in a replacement. Kia Sharon is listed as the starter for Odestine Wade on the Wildcats' updated depth chart. Sharon started for the injured Lewis, completing 15 of 27 passes for 178 yards in the loss against South Carolina.
Jutahn McClain is listed as the starter ahead of LaVell Wright as the backup. Maclin played in nine games this season and finished third in rushing with 238 yards. He had 15 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
"Some guys have to play as hard as Chris," Stoops said of Rodriguez's replacements. "He's a physically strong guy and I hope they grow."
Three-year-old Spencer Petras will not play due to injury. Alex Padilla hits the transfer window. So Ferentz will start at quarterback this season.
Redshirt freshman Joe Lapas is ready to go, with freshman Carson May as the backup. Ferentz said no one knows who the hockey team's third quarterback will be.
"It's a very unusual situation, and yes, the person who suffers the most here is Spencer, because this is an injury that requires surgery," Fernandez said. "So that part is really hard, it's hard for him to be there looking at the slingshot and all that."
Kentucky ranks 11th nationally, allowing just 19.1 points per game, and the Wildcats ranked Georgia 16th last month. She also ranks 17th with 320.2 total yards allowed.
Campbell leads an Iowa defense that led the Bowl Subdivision giving up just 4.10 yards per game. The Hokies have given up 200 or more yards in five games while holding opponents to 13 or fewer points in nine games.
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