ORLANDO, Fla. — – Freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava ran for three touchdowns and threw for one in his first career start, and No. 25 Tennessee shut down No. 20 Iowa’s Division I-worst offense to beat the Hawkeyes 35-0 in the Citrus Bowl on Monday.
Iamaleava, a prized recruit for Volunteers coach Josh Heupel, stepped in for senior Joe Milton, who opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft. The 19-year-old threw for 151 yards, and his 27 rushing yards included three scores.
Dylan Sampson rushed 20 times for 133 yards for the Vols (9-4), and Tennessee’s defense did the rest against an Iowa offense that came in averaging 16.6 points per game and 238.8 yards.
The Hawkeyes (10-4) were blanked in consecutive games to close the season after falling 26-0 to No. 1 Michigan in the Big Ten championship game. Iowa’s defense gave up more than 20 points for the third time this season – all of them in shutout losses.
The shutout was the largest in Citrus Bowl history. East Carolina beat Maine 31-0 in 1965, when the game was known as the Tangerine Bowl.
The Hawkeyes finished with 173 yards of offense. Deacon Hill threw for 56 yards, was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. The Vols sacked him six times, resulting in 24 lost yards. The Hawkeyes crossed midfield only once in the first three quarters, and that drive concluded when Andre Turrentine intercepted Hill in the end zone.
Iamaleava, meanwhile, ran for touchdowns on consecutive drives – scoring from 19 yards and 3 yards – that gave Tennessee an all-but-insurmountable 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Hill was sacked and fumbled at Iowa’s 2-yard line late in the third quarter, setting up Iamaleava’s 2-yard rushing TD. James Pearce Jr.’s 52-yard pick-6 put the Vols ahead 28-0 early in the fourth, and Iamaleava provided the exclamation point with an 18-yard TD toss to McCallan Castles.
Iowa’s offense found a bit of a spark when freshman Marco Lainez replaced Hill in the fourth quarter. Lainez scrambled for a team-high 51 yards on six carries and got Iowa past midfield for the second time in the game. But he completed just 2 of 7 passes for 4 yards.
Tennessee came in averaging 31.5 points and 453.5 yards per game, but was held to 366 by Iowa. That was the second-most yards allowed by the Hawkeyes this season, with only Penn State gaining more in a 31-0 victory.
Tennessee recorded its first shutout in a bowl game since a 3-0 win over Texas A&M in the 1957 Gator Bowl. Iowa was shut out in a bowl game for the first time since a 28-0 loss to Washington in the 1982 Rose Bowl.
Tennessee should have high hopes for next season with Iamaleava running the offense under Heupel and coordinator Joey Halzle, who will be entering his second year in that role.
Iowa will hope to improve its offense to match its defense. The Hawkeyes will hire a new offensive coordinator this offseason after announcing at midseason that Brian Ferentz, the son of coach Kirk Ferentz, would not return in that role. Iowa should get quarterback Cade McNamara back from a torn ACL suffered in September.
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