Cats edge Iowa for Citrus Bowl victory, extending postseason streak to four


Les Nicholson

Kentucky players and coach Mark Stoops held up the Citrus Bowl trophy after defeating Iowa 20-17 on Saturday in Orlando.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

ORLANDO, Fla. (KT) — Josh Paschal closed out his collegiate career cheering on his teammates and watching as Kentucky won its fourth straight postseason contest with a 20-17 triumph over Iowa in the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Saturday at Camping World Stadium.

The defensive standout admitted it wasn’t easy sitting back and watching from the sidelines after he “reaggravated” an injury in a 52-21 rout of Louisville in the regular-season finale on Nov. 27.

“It was tough,” he said. “I wanted to be able to give my team my best and they had a good day. My role changed and I just had to be the best supporter and teammate I could from the sidelines. I’m just beyond thankful for the university, for the team and for this program the last four and a half years.”

Paschal cheered on one of his defensive sidekicks — DeAndre Square — after he made an interception to seal the game in the fourth quarter. Square returned to the game despite a third-quarter injury and limped into the postgame interview room on crutches.

“I was excited,” Pascal said. “He’s a senior, he sealed the game and that’s all you can ask for.”

Square didn’t give in.

“I wasn’t even supposed to come back in, but Coach Stoops talked about doing something bigger than yourself, and all I could think about is my teammates,” Square said. “I saw the way the game was going, and I just felt like I needed to step in no matter how I was feeling. We got a lot of days of rest. I can rest up, so I didn’t care.”

The main motivation behind Square’s decision to return was Chris Oats, who made a key fumble recovery in Kentucky’s 27-24 win over Penn State in the 2018 Citrus Bowl. Oats is still recovering from a stroke he suffered more than a year ago that ended his playing career.

“When I saw him out there today, I just knew that I was going to have the ball at some point. I was planning on running to give it to him, but the ref snatched it from me, so I couldn’t do that. But yeah, that’s another person I thought about when I just wanted to be just like, yeah, I’m in pain and I want to stop, and I thought about him. I am like, I have got to go. I have got to do this.”


In addition to Paschal, Kentucky was without receivers Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps, who were involved in an automobile accident last month. Also missing were running back Kavosiey Smoke and linebackers Trevin Wallace, Marquez Bembry, Dare Rosenthall, and JJ Weaver, who were inactive because of a combination of injuries and health protocols.

Ali and Epps combined for 772 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

“In the preparation, we were down some players, and that stood out today,” coach Mark Stoops said. “Some youth and some inexperience stood out in the second half, but that is no excuse,” he said. “We need to play better, and guys need to step up, and I am proud of the guys that did. I am proud being short-handed in certain areas, moving guys around in certain areas and stepping up and being able to beat a quality opponent in Iowa. This is not easy to get to this game. It is not easy to win 10 games, and just proud of the effort from everybody involved.”

MR. 100

Wan’Dale Robinson’s last reception, the 52-yarder where he made three defenders miss and set up the game-winning touchdown, gave him UK’s single-season record for receiving yards that Craig Yeast has held since 1999. Robinson finished the season with 104 receptions, becoming the only receiver in Kentucky history to even hit 100. He had 10 catches for 170 yards in earning Citrus Bowl MVP honors.


Stoops played at Iowa from 1987-89 and was a graduate assistant at the school and served in the 1990 Rose Bowl staff under the late Hayden Fry.

Despite the history between the Hawkeyes and Stoops, the Kentucky coach didn’t spend much time reminiscing prior to kickoff and admitted he didn’t “really think much of it.”

“I went out on the field early, saw some people I knew, saw the colors,” he said. “I thought it was cool, you know, just to see the Hawkeyes again, but then, it was right back to business. I have a lot of respect for their program, but I have a lot of respect for these guys, too.”