Hawks and Wildcats set to start inexperienced quarterbacks

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 8:25 PM CST
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NASHVILLE,TN (KCRG) - In addition to playing each other for the second consecutive year in a bowl game, the Iowa and Kentucky football teams come into Saturday’s meeting with some similarities. One big one is that both teams are going to play a quarterback that is inexperienced.

“When you play team like Iowa, it’s hard to beat them once. You go back-to-back years and you know what a challenge that will be,” Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops said.

Kentucky will be without their senior quarterback Will Levis who took down the Hawkeyes in last season’s Citrus Bowl. Although they haven’t officially named their starter, the oldest backup listed on their roster is a sophomore.

“It’s very important to play around them. We have some guys with experience around them that have played and need to step up and do the best job that they can to help the quarterback out,” Stoops said.

Not knowing who the Wildcats will have under center, makes it challenging for Iowa’s defense to prepare for Saturday.

“Really you kind of see how they’re going to try to attack us. They have an offense that we prepared for of one system, now you got a different offensive coordinator going to be calling it, Vince. I’m sure he’ll have some tricks up his sleeve. It’s going to be interesting for us,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said.

However, Kentucky is in the same boat. Iowa has listed Joe Labas as the starting QB against the Wildcats. It will mark the redshirt freshman’s first collegiate game.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever gone into a game where our one or two’s are gone, not on the roster, but fortunately we have an extended period here. Over the last two weeks, Joe has really done a lot of good things and it seems like he’s more comfortable,” Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

“There’s a knowledge base that you’re not starting from scratch. Obviously, that makes it a little easier, but it’s like anyone else. You want to tailor what you’re doing to the player’s strengths,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz added.

Because of that, Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said he looked at high school film of Labas to help his team get ready.

“In any situation for a young player, this is their opportunity. We’re expecting the best out of him. We might have to adjust a little bit in flight during the game, depending to whatever style we see,” he explained.

There will be nerves on both sides, but Coach Ferentz had an idea to help his young QB settle those before kickoff.

“Maybe we’ll have [Jack] Campbell hit him in the locker room a couple of times, just to you know loosen him up a little bit there. Maybe in the head a little bit too, just so he’s not thinking too much,” Ferentz joked.

Kickoff between Iowa and Kentucky is set for 11 A.M. on KCRG TV-9.