Advertise with usContact UsRTI Team

Four Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Obliterates Iowa In 2024 Citrus Bowl

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football capped off its 2023 season with a 35-0 victory over Iowa in the 2024 Citrus Bowl. The Vols got strong defensive performances, ran the ball well and used a strong debut from Nico Iamaleava to coast to a drama free victory.

Here’s four quick takeaways on Tennessee’s bowl win over Iowa.

A Momentum Flipping Interception

Iowa had the momentum early in the football game and was putting together a rare good drive midway through the second quarter.

A Jackson Ross shanked punt gave Iowa the ball at the Vols’ 47-yard line to begin its second drive of the game. The Hawkeyes picked up 11 yards through the air on the first play of the drive and then converted a pair of third downs to set up first-and-goal at the four-yard line.

Tennessee’s defense stopped a pair of inside runs and forced third-and-goal at the same yard line. That’s when Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill made a grave mistake, forcing a throw into double coverage which Tennessee safety Andre Turrentine intercepted.

Iowa’s offense didn’t pass midfield until the 13:30 mark in the fourth quarter. The turnover completely flipped the momentum of the game. The Hawkeyes’ offense isn’t good enough to overcome turnovers like the red zone interception.

As Tennessee’s offense found second quarter success, Iowa’s first quarter missed opportunity proved even more costly.

Tennessee Finds Success Against Strong Iowa Run Defense

Iowa’s stout run defense entered the Citrus Bowl allowing just 102 yards per game. Even in their lopsided Big 10 Championship loss against Michigan, the Hawkeyes allowed just 66 rushing yards.

That made for a compelling matchup with Tennessee’s rushing offense being the strength of its offense. With its top two running backs and two starting offensive linemen out, the Vols’ path to sustained rushing success seemed unlikely.

Instead, Tennessee’s running game was as effective as it was all season. By the 11-minute mark in the second quarter, the Vols had already eclipsed 102 rushing yards against Iowa’s strong rush defense. Tennessee totaled 126 rushing yards in the first half and 232 rushing yards in the entirety of the game.

The Vols had success on the ground with the three-headed monster of Dylan Sampson, Cameron Seldon and Nico Iamaleava.

Sampson found another of chunk plays on the ground, gaining 133 yards on 20 carries while Seldon was a strong change of pace. The physical freshman running back totaled 55 yards on 13 carries including a number of short yardage first downs.

Iamaleava only totaled 27 rushing yards because of seven sacks but he was effective on a number of designed runs, including two first half touchdowns, and on a handful of scrambles.

More From RTI: Watch Nico Iamaleava Rush For Two Touchdowns In The First Half Against Iowa

Strong First Start From Nico Iamaleava

Most intrigue entering the Citrus Bowl surrounded Nico Iamaleava making his first career start. Iamaleava gave the Vols plenty to be excited about in his debut performance.

The 6-foot-6 quarterback completed 12-of-19 passes for a moderate 151 yards and one touchdown against a strong Iowa pass defense. Iamaleava’s passing numbers weren’t amazing but he did a lot to like.

He didn’t put the ball in harms way, threw a beautiful deep ball that could have been a touchdown if Ramel Keyton tracked it in the air. What Iamaleava showed in limited regular season playing time, he showed in the Citrus Bowl. That’s his ability to extend plays with his legs and make throws on the run.

In fact, Iamaleava tied a Tennessee bowl game record, rushing for three touchdowns in the lopsided victory.

The talented quarterback wasn’t perfect and I’m not starting his Heisman Trophy campaign after the performance, but there was a lot to like about the performance.

James Pearce Jr. The Best Player On The Field

The excitement was around Iamaleava but sophomore edge rusher James Pearce Jr. was the best player on the Camping World Stadium Field. It was a fitting end to the season as Pearce has been the Vols’ best player all season.

Pearce pressured Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill on the third play of the game and he lived in the backfield when Tennessee forced the Hawkeyes into passing downs.

The talented defensive end made the two biggest plays of the second half that put Iowa away. First he strip sacked, Hill midway through the third quarter which gave Tennessee first-and-goal at the two-yard line. The ensuing Tennessee touchdown ended any unlikely hopes of an Iowa comeback.

Then a possession later, the outside linebacker showed he can do more than just rush the passer. Dropping into coverage, Pearce intercepted a Hill pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. The future first round pick finished the game with three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception.

Pearce his sophomore season with 9.5 sacks— the highest mark for a Tennessee player since Derek Barnett recorded 13 in 2016.

Similar Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweet Us