Tennessee overwhelms Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl

Published 1:55 pm Sunday, January 4, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Joshua Dobbs accounted for three touchdowns, Jalen Hurd ran for two scores and Tennessee beat Iowa 45-28 on Jan. 2 in the TaxSlayer Bowl for its first postseason victory since the Phillip Fulmer era.

The Volunteers (7-6) scored on their first four possessions, leading 28-0 before Iowa (7-6) managed 70 yards.

Hurd, Dobbs and a bit of trickery helped Tennessee build the big lead.

Hurd broke tackles on nearly every run, capping Tennessee’s first possession with a 3-yard score and adding a 29-yard touchdown scamper on the next drive.

Tennessee made it 21-0 late in the first quarter when Dobbs threw a lateral to running back Marlin Lane in the right flat. Lane, a senior from nearby Daytona Beach, turned and hit Vic Wharton in stride down the sideline.

It was a nice send-off for Lane, one of just a handful of Tennessee’s seniors.

But the victory, which was Tennessee’s first in the postseason since beating Wisconsin in the 2008 Outback Bowl, was more about the future. The Vols closed the season with four wins in their final five games, showing plenty of potential for one of the youngest teams in college football.

Second-year coach Butch Jones delivered the program’s first winning season since 2009. And it’s not out of the question for Tennessee to be a trendy pick to contend for the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division title in 2015.

Hurd and Dobbs could be integral parts.

Hurd, a freshman, had his fourth 100-yard game. He finished with 122 yards on 16 carries, the most yards rushing for any Tennessee player in a bowl game since Travis Henry ran for 180 against Kansas State in the 2001 Cotton Bowl.

Dobbs, a sophomore filling in for injured quarterback Justin Worley, completed 16 of 21 passes for 129 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 76 yards and two scores. His 19-yard scoring pass to Von Pearson in the closing seconds of the first half made it 35-7. It came one play after the duo hooked up for an 11-yard gain on a ball that was tipped by a defender.

It was that kind of day for Iowa, which was looking for its first postseason victory since the 2010 Insight Bowl.

The Hawkeyes missed tackles, made mistakes and looked like they would end up with their worst bowl loss in school history before scoring three times in the fourth quarter.

Coach Kirk Ferentz kept his starting quarterback a secret leading up to the game, and then rolled out Jake Rudock for the 12th time in 13 games.

C.J. Beathard played the next series and ended up getting most of the work. Beathard completed 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 82 yards.

Jordan Canzeri was another of the bright spots for Iowa. The junior ran 12 times for 120 yards. Senior Mark Weisman scored Iowa’s first two touchdowns, giving him 16 for the season.

But it was all Tennessee — much like the stands.

Volunteers fans vastly outnumbered Iowa fans, not surprising considering they feel really good about the direction of the program under Jones and hadn’t been to a bowl game in several years.

Players kept them entertained, scoring their first six touchdowns in less than 3 1/2 minutes.

The Vols also gave the SEC a much-needed win after a tough couple of days that saw Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi and Mississippi State all lose.

Now, though, the SEC East has a chance to go unbeaten in bowl games. South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri already have wins, and Tennessee made it 4-0 for the oft-maligned East. Florida can make it a clean sweep by beating East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday.