Robinson Takes Home MVP Hardware After Wan’Daleful Showing
By Collin Thomas
Florida Citrus Sports
Any list of highlights of 75 years of Citrus Bowl performances will have to include Saturday’s display by Wan’Dale Robinson.
Kentucky’s junior wide receiver led his Wildcats to a nail-biting 20-17 win against the No. 15 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes with 10 catches for 170 yards on 13 targets. That receiving mark became the sixth-highest yardage total in bowl game history.
Robinson started 2022 in the same way he played much of his 2021 season, setting his school’s single-season receiving record with 1,334 yards. He also holds the record for most catches in Kentucky history with 104. Robinson brought in seven receiving touchdowns on the year as well.
Robinson’s efforts on Kentucky’s game-winning drive secured his spot as the Vrbo Citrus Bowl Most Valuable Player. He took a hit on a 3rd-and-10 for a 17-yard catch, which took him out of the game for one play. Yet he returned to shake the defense on a 52-yard pass to set up Kentucky in scoring range. This led to the game-winning six-yard touchdown run by running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr.
“At first, I was winded a little bit,” Robinson said after the game, “but they called the play and I knew I had to make a play for the team. I got the ball in my hands and I did what I could to get us down there.”
The Frankfort, Ky. native started his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska, where he made a name for himself early on. In 2019, he set the single-season catches record by a freshman with 40 and the most receiving yards by a freshman with 443. He was also named Big Ten freshman of the week twice and was named a Paul Hornung Award finalist, given to the most versatile player in college football. After that successful campaign at Nebraska, Robinson felt it was necessary to move closer to home.
In an interview with 247 Sports’ Chris Birch, Robinson said his decision to transfer was based on being closer to his family.
“I sat down with my dad and people that are close to me and we kind of just talked at the end of the year,” Robinson said. “We just felt like it was better for me to kind of hit the portal and then with my mom too, she was dealing with COVID. I definitely knew that I wanted to get closer to home and it was just a perfect fit with me coming here with the new offense and things like that.”
So Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had previous experience with Robinson, who totaled nine catches for 75 receiving yards and nine rushes for 56 yards in two games played against the Hawkeyes.
“He is just a really explosive, dynamic football player,” Ferentz said. “He was good when we faced him last time, and he is probably better right now, and that comes with age. We have a lot of respect for him.”
Robinson’s future with Kentucky is undecided as the new year begins. It will be hard for NFL scouts to ignore the work he has shown on the field.
“I’m going to sit with my family and talk and sit with them and do what I feel like is best for us, and I feel like that decision will come soon,” Robinson said.
The future holds promise, but the past is cemented: Robinson will go down in Vrbo Citrus Bowl lore.