Wan'Dale Robinson

ORLANDO, Fla. (KT) — Wan’Dale Robinson proved you can come home again.

The Kentucky receiver and former Western Hills High High School standout turned in one of the top performances in Citrus Bowl history and made a catch- and-run that will be talked about for decades in Saturday’s 20-17 win over Iowa at Camping World Stadium.

Robinson hauled in 10 passes for 170 yards and it was his 52-yard catch in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the big play the Wildcats needed after the offense produced four punts, a turnover on downs and an interception on their first five possessions of the second half. It was a stark contrast to the first half when Kentucky scored on three of its four possessions.

Despite the struggles on offense and an inability to come up with an answer to Iowa’s two scores in the second half, Robinson came up with a big play that set up the game-winning touchdown and kept the team’s postseason four-game winning streak alive. He was named Citrus Bowl Most Valuable Player and his 170 receiving yards are the sixth most in the history of the New Year’s Day Bowl game. The performance by Robinson is the best by a receiver in the postseason in UK history.

Those are the kind of plays Kentucky was counting on when Robinson transferred to Kentucky after two disappointing seasons at Nebraska. While with the Cornhuskers, Robinson played against the Hawkeyes twice, losing both times, but the third attempt, with a different program, was the charm for Kentucky’s 2018 Mr. Football.

“It was just special,” he said. “I mean, if you know anything about Nebraska, that is a rival school for me. I have lost to them for two years in a row, so this one was a little bit more special, especially for the guys I played with out there. Then just personally, I wanted to beat these guys. I wanted to finish out strong with my teammates here. It was just good to get that win. It felt really good.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz recalled his team had a hard time keeping up with Robinson in the previous two meetings and encountered a much-improved wide receiver this time around.

“He was good when we faced him last time, and he is probably better right now and that comes with age,” Ferenz said. “We have a lot of respect for him.”

 

What makes Robinson such a unique talent?

 

“He’s so easy to deal with,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “He is so fun to deal with and he allows all of this stuff to work.”

He’s also the type of player that has been impactful for the Wildcats and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was at a loss for words describing his value to the Wildcats.

“It is really hard to describe what he has meant to us,” Stoops said. “He is the ultimate competitor, and he is very selfless. He plays extremely hard. He plays the game for himself, his family, his teammates, this institution, the state.  (He) just plays so hard and makes such competitive plays in big moments. That is what you need to win a Bowl game, to beat quality opponents. You need your guys to step up and make plays when you need them. He certainly did that. “

Just as he did in Frankfort during his prep career, Robinson is creating a mark of excellence for future players to follow at Kentucky.

“This is the standard — 10 wins,” he said. “That is what it is. Every year from now on, you want to win 10 or more.”

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