Best of TaxSlayer Bowl: Tennessee drops Iowa, 45-28

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Best of TaxSlayer Bowl: Tennessee drops Iowa, 45-28

Iowa failed to get much going on either side of the ball in a 45-28 loss to Tennessee in Friday’s TaxSlayer Bowl. The Hawkeyes fell behind 28-0 early on and looked like they would end up with their worst bowl loss in school history before scoring three times in the fourth quarter.

Still, the Hawkeyes can learn from this loss as they prepare for the 2015 season.

BEST OF TAXSLAYER BOWL

Best play: Late in the game and trailing 45-14, QB C.J. Beathard threw a perfect touchdown pass to TE Ray Hamilton. The bullet pass zipped past two Tennessee defenders before hitting Hamilton right between the numbers for the score.

Best player: It has to be Beathard. The Hawkeyes’ quarterback completed 13-of-23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 82 yards. It will be interesting to see how Iowa’s quarterback situation plays out next season.

Best stat: 7.0, yards per carry for the Hawkeyes. Jordan Canzeri led the way with 12 carries for 120 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the Hawkeyes were forced to play from behind throughout the majority of game.

GRADES

Offense: C. The Hawkeyes found success on the ground, but after getting down 28-0 early on, it was simply too little, too late. The inability to strike any big plays through the air continues to hurt this Iowa team. In fact, the Hawkeyes only had two passing plays which went for 18-or-more yards. That’s simply not going to get it done.

Defense: D+. Tennessee did just about whatever they wanted on offense throughout this game. The Vols racked up 461 yards of total offense, and they were efficient in doing so. Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs hit 16-of-21 passes for 129 yards and a score. Iowa’s lone positive on defense came midway through the third quarter when Desmond King intercepted Dobbs’ pass and returned it 37 yards to the Tennessee 31 yard line. However, Beathard would throw an interception six plays later, which crushed any chance of momentum the Hawkeyes had at that point.

Special Teams: C-. Nothing spectacular here. Iowa averaged 12.7 yards per kickoff return, while returning one punt for five yards. The Hawkeyes didn’t attempt a field goal in this game. They did punt the ball six times for 215 yards, an average of 35.8 yards per punt.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was over when: Trailing 35-7 at halftime, the Hawkeyes got a stop on Tennessee’s first drive of the second half and had a chance to gain some momentum. Instead, Iowa was forced to punt after just five plays. Tennessee took over and put together a nine-play, 74-yard drive, which ended with a score and gave the Volunteers a commanding 42-7 lead, essentially ending the game.

A look toward 2015: This team is going to have to find a permanent answer at quarterback. RB Mark Weisman will be gone, but Canzeri and Jonathan Parker should be back in the backfield in 2015. The defense will have to replace several talented players, but Drew Ott should be back to anchor the defensive line, while King will be the leader of the secondary.

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