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Iowa falls behind 28-0 early, losses to Tennessee 45-28 in TaxSlayer Bowl

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had blood above his right eye after the game, remnants of getting whacked on the sideline.

That was nothing compared to the abuse his players took on the field.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for three touchdowns, Jalen Hurd ran for two scores and Tennessee beat Iowa 45-28 on Friday in the TaxSlayer Bowl for its first postseason victory since the Phillip Fulmer era.

"They were ready right from the start, and we certainly couldn't match their tempo in the first half," Ferentz said. "Best execution that we've seen from their football team all season long."

The Volunteers (7-6) scored on their first four possessions, leading 28-0 before Iowa (7-6) managed 70 yards.

Hurd, Dobbs and a bit of trickery helped Tennessee build the big lead.

Hurd broke tackles on nearly every run, capping Tennessee's first possession with a 3-yard score and adding a 29-yard touchdown scamper on the next drive.

Tennessee made it 21-0 late in the first quarter when Dobbs threw a lateral to running back Marlin Lane in the right flat. Lane, a senior from nearby Daytona Beach, turned and hit Vic Wharton in stride down the sideline.

It was a nice send-off for Lane, one of just a handful of Tennessee's seniors.

But the victory, which was Tennessee's first in the postseason since beating Wisconsin in the 2008 Outback Bowl, was more about the future. The Vols won four of their last five games, showing plenty of potential for one of the youngest teams in college football.

"We still have a long way to go, but we're making progress," said Jones, who finished his second season in Knoxville. "We talk about building this program brick by brick, and we built another brick in the foundation today."

PHOTO: Tennessee's  Jalen Hurd (1) is upended by Iowa's Greg Mabin during the first half of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)
Tennessee's Jalen Hurd (1) is upended by Iowa's Greg Mabin during the first half of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)

Jones also delivered the program's first winning season since 2009. And it's not out of the question for Tennessee to be a trendy pick to contend for the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division title in 2015.

Iowa, meanwhile, will have to deal with speculation about Ferentz's future. The longtime coach has five or more losses in five consecutive seasons.

"If you're in this profession, that's part of the deal," Ferentz said. "If I'm going to sit around listening to the temperature, reading the temperature on the outside, more what I need to do is take the energy that I can put toward the job and put it on our improvement. That's typically what we've tried to do for 16 years."

Hawkeyes athletic director Gary Barta said he felt "great disappointment" in the season.

"We have high expectations at Iowa; we always have," Barta said. "We didn't meet those expectations, so we'll get ready for 2015 so we can get back to where we want to be. ... I feel, as the fans feel, great disappointment. I feel the pain of losing today and of not meeting the expectations this year.

"But what I do see are student-athletes who are 100 percent behind their coach. I see a group of coaches are still behind each other, and that's important because I've been around programs where a coach loses a team, and that's not the case at Iowa."

Ferentz kept his starting quarterback a secret leading up to the game, and then rolled out Jake Rudock for the 12th time in 13 games.

C.J. Beathard played the next series and ended up getting most of the work. Beathard completed 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 82 yards.

Jordan Canzeri was another of the bright spots for Iowa. The junior ran 12 times for 120 yards. Senior Mark Weisman scored Iowa's first two touchdowns, giving him 16 for the season.

But it was all Tennessee.

The Hawkeyes looked like they would end up with their worst bowl loss in school history before scoring three times in the fourth quarter.

"This game was embarrassing," Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff said. "I'm glad we showed some fight in the second half. It's too bad we were down so much. Tennessee did everything right in the first half. They were the team that brought all the energy in the first half."

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