FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla., — Iowa’s defense has dug into Tennessee for a couple of weeks now. Whatever the Volunteers do on offense will be launched by quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
Dobbs took over as UT’s quarterback after Justin Worley suffered what wound up being a season-ending shoulder injury during the Volunteers’ 34-3 loss to Mississippi on Oct. 18. Dobbs, a 6-3, 216-pound sophomore, led Tennessee to a 3-2 record with victories in three of the Vols’ final four games to secure bowl eligibility.
In that four-game run, Dobbs generated 1,203 yards of total offense, which was 70.8 percent of the Vols’ offense. Dobbs is UT’s second-leading rusher with 393 yards and has 1,077 passing yards.
“They like to run a lot of counters [out of a zone-read look] to get their fast quarterback out in space,” defensive end Drew Ott said. “When they pull a tight end or tackle or guard, the play can go either way when they read it. They’re really good at it, it’s what they’ve been doing all season.”
Iowa has had its issues with perimeter defense. Maryland ran a pistol formation that went for 216 yards against the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin copycatted that and got a 45-yard TD run from QB Tanner McEvoy. Minnesota ran 10 jet sweeps against Iowa without one going for negative yards.
The Vols run some zone-read plays, but it also shows a zone-read look with the offensive line blocking down in a more traditional gap scheme. Tennessee did finish 13th in the SEC in rushing, but it also gave up a league-low 42 sacks that resulted in 302 negative rushing yards. Dobbs was sacked 11 times in his five starts.
“The quarterback is a very dynamic athlete,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “He can throw the ball and they have him run the ball a little bit. It’s a challenge for us to stop him. They run him a lot and give him the opportunity to throw it. They misdirection you a little bit and that’s dangerous.”
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Tennessee’s arrival ... The Volunteers arrived in Jacksonville on Sunday. Iowa has been here since last Thursday. Yes, it’s a bit of a contrast. Since losing the 2003 Orange Bowl, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has done the super-early bowl arrival thing.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones ran the Vols through a practice in Knoxville before departing for Sunday afternoon’s arrival in Jacksonville. Jones basically gave everyone a Christmas break.
“They’ve kind of been in uncharted waters not just for this entire bowl preparation but the entire season,” Jones said. “You have to rely on your maturity and the ability to play on a center stage, January 2nd in the TaxSlayer Bowl.”
The TaxSlayer is UT’s first bowl since 2010. Iowa played in the Outback Bowl last season after missing out on a bowl with a 4-8 record in 2012.
The beard is no more ... Iowa defensive end Drew Ott’s adventures in facial hair took a drastic turn during the holidays. The junior had a beard for the last two seasons (along with 9.5 sacks), but shaved it in favor of a Fu Manchu for the bowl game.
The beard was kind of famous. Ott’s family had T-shirts made last year that had a drawing of Ott with “Fear the Beard” written on the front.
“It just wasn’t working anymore,” he said with a laugh. “I needed to my neck back to check and see if I had a double chin. I have a little one, so I’ll probably grow it back.”
“Unbroken” gets good reviews from the Hawkeyes ... The Hawkeyes took in the movie “Unbroken” in Iowa City on Christmas Eve, the night before the team departed for Jacksonville.
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Here’s the IMDb plot summary: “After a near-fatal plane crash in World War II, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.” It’s scoring a 51 percent approval rate on the Rotten Tomatoes website. That’s not very good.
Iowa cornerback Desmond King gave it a thumbs up.
“Just seeing the things he was going through over and over and over, but he fought to the end,” King said.
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