College Football
Tennessee 35, Iowa 0
When: 1:00 PM ET, Monday, January 1, 2024
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Temperature: 67°
Head Official: Jeff Heaser
Attendance: 43861

Nico Iamaleava lived up to projections that he is a future star by excelling in his first career start.

Iamaleava rushed for three touchdowns and passed for one to help No. 21 Tennessee cruise to a 35-0 rout of No. 17 Iowa on Monday afternoon in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Iamaleava drew the start because Joe Milton III opted out of the contest and he completed 12 of 19 passes for 151 yards for the Volunteers (9-4). He scored on runs of 19, 3 and 2 yards, tossed an 18-yard TD pass to McCallan Castles and helped Tennessee play turnover-free football.

The freshman, who was named Citrus Bowl MVP, said the outcome was exactly what he expected.

"I knew we were going to go out there and take care of business," Iamaleava said. "I'm glad we came out with the win and got our seniors a ring and the bowl win, so I'm happy for that."

James Pearce Jr. returned an interception for a touchdown and also recorded a strip-sack that set up a Volunteers' touchdown. Dylan Sampson rushed for 133 yards on 20 carries as the lead back after star Jaylen Wright and No. 2 rusher Jabari Small both opted out of the contest.

Deacon Hill completed 7 of 18 passes for 56 yards and committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one lost fumble) for Iowa (10-4). The Hawkeyes were shut out for the third time this season.

The Iowa offense had 111 yards before Hill was pulled after the early fourth-quarter interception by Pearce. The Hawkeyes finished with 173 while the Volunteers had 383 yards en route to scoring more points than Iowa had allowed in a game all season.

Iowa star Jay Higgins had 16 tackles to tie the school single-season record of 171 set by Andre Jackson in 1972.

"Maybe it's just the system I'm in, I just try to go out there and help my teammates and just do my job," Higgins said of tying the mark. "At the end of the day, it's about finding the ball."

Iowa teammate Joe Evans registered a career-high four sacks. The Hawkeyes had six overall.

Tyre West had 1.5 of Tennessee's five sacks.

Even though the Volunteers' defense was stellar, Iamaleava's play was the key element.

"The moment, nothing's too big for him," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. "He's very in control, and does a great job relating to all the guys at every position on every unit -- offense, defense. He's a dynamic leader already as a young guy. Really pleased with his poise and his playmaking ability."

As for the Hawkeyes, they entered the contest as one of the nation's worst offenses at 16.6 points per game.

They lived up to that billing by being blanked for the second straight game. In fact, Iowa didn't score a touchdown in its final 163 minutes, 22 seconds of the season.

"We have to thread the needle," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You get good field position and then take it down inside and give yourself a touchdown and (if you) don't, that's not good. And the worst offense is not getting any points."

Hill's first big miscue came in the first quarter. On third-and-goal from the Tennessee 4, Hill was intercepted in the end zone by Andre Turrentine with 4:55 left.

Tennessee got on the board on the first play of the second quarter when Iamaleava scored from the 19-yard line.

Later in the quarter, Iamaleava scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0 with 8:12 left in the half.

Pierce delivered his first big play late in the third quarter when he sacked Hill and forced a fumble that Dominic Bailey recovered at the Iowa 2.

Two plays later, Iamaleava scored from the 2 to make it 21-0 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

Hill's rough day ended with the pick-6 by Pearce, who had dropped into coverage. Hill threw the ball directly to Pearce, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown with 14:15 remaining in the contest.

Marco Lainez replaced Hill and Iowa controlled the ball for 13 plays and 6:11 before turning it over on downs.

The Volunteers added on with Iamaleava throwing the scoring pass to Castles to make it a 35-point margin with 4:48 left.

--Field Level Media

Top Game Performances
Iowa   Tennessee
Marco Lainez Player Dylan Sampson
6 Attempts 20
51 Yards 133
8.5 Avg Yards 6.7
0 Touchdowns 0
0 Long 0
Iowa   Tennessee
Kaleb Brown Player Ramel Keyton
3 Receptions 3
39 Yards 51
13.0 Avg Yards 17.0
0 Touchdowns 0
0 Long 0
Team Stats Summary
  Yards Scoring Defense
Team Tot Rus Pas TD FG INT Sck FF
Iowa 173 113 60 0 0 0 6.0 0
Tennessee 383 232 151 5 0 2 5.0 1