TAMPA, Fla.— The Iowa Hawkeyes lost a yard on the last play of the Outback Bowl, pushing their final rushing total to minus-15 yards, and didn’t mind a bit.

They ran the play from victory formation.

Safety Jake Gervase’s interception in the end zone helped preserve a late lead, and a ball-hawking defense compensated for a sputtering offense as Iowa beat No. 18 Mississippi State 27-22 on Tuesday.

Gervase also batted down an errant fourth-down pass to end the Bulldogs’ final drive at Iowa’s 32 with 25 seconds left. Two earlier Mississippi State threats in the fourth quarter led to only three points.

The Hawkeyes totaled just 199 yards, with 75 coming on a touchdown pass from Nathan Stanley to Nick Easley, but they converted three takeaways into 17 points.

The Hawkeyes won despite losing 27 inches per rush. Their three running backs totaled 4 yards in 15 carries.

“We had a hard time blocking their front,” said Coach Kirk Ferentz, who coached UMaine for three seasons, 1990-92. “Defense really bailed us out.”

Iowa (9-4) earned its biggest postseason victory since an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech to cap the 2009 season. Mississippi State (8-5) lost to a team outside the top 15 for the first time.

Trailing 24-19, the Bulldogs had a first down at the Iowa 1 early in the fourth quarter, but three quarterback draws lost 2 yards and they settled for a field goal.

They were again on the verge of taking the lead with nine minutes left, but receiver Stephen Guidry bobbled a tipped pass in the end zone, and Gervase snatched it away.

The Hawkeyes then drove 50 yards for a field goal, the game’s final score.

CITRUS BOWL

(16) KENTUCKY 27, (13) PENN STATE 24: Benny Snell Jr. ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns to become Kentucky’s career rushing leader and help the Wildcats (10-3) wrap up their best season in more than four decades with a victory over the Nittany Lions (9-4) at Orlando, Florida.

Snell scored on runs of 2 and 12 yards in the second half, then carried for a couple of crucial first downs to help Kentucky run out the clock after Penn State’s Trace McSorley trimmed a 27-7 deficit to three points.

McSorley threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for a team-high 75 yards on 19 attempts.

Lynn Bowden Jr. scored on a 58-yard punt return for Kentucky, and Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year Josh Allen had three of the Wildcats’ six sacks.