What was by far the most obvious secret in the nation was revealed by Tennessee Football Monday: The Big Ten West is massively overrated. UT dominated the Iowa Hawkeyes, the champion of that division, 35-0. In addition to exposing Iowa as way worse than their 10-2 regular season record looked, her are five other things we learned from UT’s win.
1. Nico Iamaleava looked like a veteran.
Everybody knew the top story of this game would be about Tennessee Football quarterback Nico Iamaleava, and against a very tough and complex 4-2-5 Iowa defense, he was superb out there. Iamaleava was deadly accurate and showed command of the offense throughout the game.
Because Kirk Ferentz plays such soft coverage, Iamaleava was able to run a lot more. He never hesitated to do so and finished with three rushing touchdowns. Iowa was giving up under 240 yards a game of total offense. Even the Michigan Wolverines only had 213 yards against them. However, with Iamaleava at the helm, the Vols had over 380 total yards.
2. Rest of Tennessee Football passing game awful
Notice Iamaleava’s stat line didn’t come into play. That’s because he was a measly 12-of-19 for 151 yards and a touchdown while running for 27 yards on 15 carries, giving up six sacks. He had no help in the passing game. Pass protection was horrendous with UT starting Ollie Lane, Jackson Lampley and Dayne Davis, and Dylan Sampson continues to struggle in pass pro.
Meanwhile, Iamaleava didn’t have help from his pass catchers either. Ramel Keyton dropped a perfect pass over the middle and stopped running on what would have been a touchdown pass, and Sampson dropped a shovel pass that should have been a huge gain. He also forgot to block on a screen that would’ve set up another touchdown.
3. Physical edge went to Tennessee Football
It may be a paradox, but the Vols were more physical despite poor pass protection. Sampson did rush for 100 yards, and they had 43 carries for 169 yards as a team. That included two conversions from under center on a drive on 4th and 1 and 3rd and 1, and it also included a touchdown run from the goal line.
Then Iowa had just 113 rushing yards on 36 carries, and 51 came from their backup quarterback, Marco lainez, just as he entered late. As a Big Ten West team, despite all of their issues, Iowa’s calling card is winning the line of scrimmage. For Josh Heupel’s team, with a makeshift line and way more injuries and opt outs, to win those battles up front says a lot about the program he’s built.
4. Pass defense looked BETTER after departures
Andre Turrentine snuffed out Iowa’s only threatening drive with a red zone interception. Sure, Iowa’s passing offense has been awful all year, but they came in averaging 123.2 yards through the air and completing 49.8 percent of passes while averaging less than one interception a game. Deacon Hill was 7-of-18 for 56 yards and two picks in this game, though.
One pick was to Turrentine, and the other was to James Pearce Jr., who ran it back for a touchdown. Pearce was the other element of this pass defense, though, as the pass rush was superb. Tennessee Football had four sacks in the game, and Pearce himself had a strip-sack that set up a touchdown.
5. Punt game had some concerning mistakes
Sure, Jackson Ross pinned four punts inside the 20-yard line, but he shanked one punt, which set up the one drive Iowa had in the red zone for the Vols. Although it doesn’t matter a lot, the field position game went against the Vols the whole time because of mistakes like that when it came to the punt game on both sides.
UT also interfered on a punt return that was fair-caught. Then Dee Williams lost two yards on one punt return and three on another, and Squirrel White went back there to return one punt for no gain. Special teams won a game for Tennessee Football this year, so the Vols HAVE to be able to have an advantage there in the future.