On January 2, 2015, Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida played host to the Tax Slayer Bowl. This specific Bowl matches an SEC team with a Big 10/ACC opponent or Notre Dame. This year, the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers faced the Iowa Hawkeyes.The Vols came into Jacksonville with a record of (7-6, 3-5). The Hawkeyes had a fairly similar record of (7-6, 4-4).
Originally known as the Gator Bowl, it has been held continuously since 1946. The name Tax Slayer Bowl comes from TaxSlayer.com having the contract as the principal sponsor. It has also gone by other names: Mazda Gator Bowl, Gator Bowl, Outback Steakhouse Gator Bowl, Toyota Gator Bowl, Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, and Progressive Gator Bowl just to give you a few examples. This particular Bowl Game is operated by Gator Bowl Sports.
In the past 3 years of its current title as the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, it’s played host to games such as Florida/Ohio St., Northwestern/Mississippi St., and Nebraska/Georgia. Some of their more memorable games include:
- 2010: Bobby Bowden’s last game at Florida State. FSU beat West Virginia 33-21
- 1989: Vince Dooley’s final game. Dooley, the MVP for his Auburn team in the 1954 Gator Bowl, coached his final game at Georgia in a 34-27 victory over Michigan State.
- 1978: Clemson 17, Ohio State 15. The game that marked the end of Coach Woody Hayes’ era at Ohio St.
This SEC/Big 10 matchup was played in front of a mostly orange, 56,310 fan-base who had a lot to be happy about. In the 1st Quarter the Vols put on a dominant display on offense and set the tone of the game by scoring 21 points. Tennessee Running Back Jalen Hurd scored 2 TD’s 7 minutes apart. The 3rd was a 49 yd TD pass from Tailback Marlin Lane to Wide Receiver Vic Wharton on a half back toss-pass. 3 minutes into the 2nd Quarter, Quarterback Josh Dobbs scored a TD on a 8 yd run to make the game 28-0.
The game was quickly getting out of hand and Iowa was unable to find any rhythm during the first 20 minutes. Struggling to get points, the Hawkeyes finally hit pay dirt when Running Back Mark Weisman found the end-zone from 3 yds out. Finally able to put points on the board before, the Hawkeyes desperately needed to ride this momentum into halftime.
With 0:21 left on the clock in the 1st Half, Vols WR Von Pearson caught a 19 yd TD pass from Josh Dobbs to make the game 35-7 while simultaneously taking the wind out the sails of the Hawkeyes.
Tennessee would only score twice more (for 10 points) for the remainder of the game. The Hawkeyes found some courage and mustered up 21 points in the 2nd Half. Weisman found the end-zone once more while C.J. Beathard threw 2 TD passes to Ray Hamilton and Matt VandeBerg.
The numbers were pretty close between both teams. The only difference was Tennessee turned their yardage into points. Josh Dobbs had an incredible game. The sophomore out of Alpharetta, Georgia went 16/21 for 129 yds and 1 interception. His biggest impact came on the ground with his scrambling ability. With only 5 missed passes, Dobbs used his running ability when receiving options were few, racking up 84 yds on the ground. Jalen Hurd was another impact player rushed for 122 yds and 2 TD’s. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin anchored Tennessee’s Defense and led the team in solo tackles (5) and assisted (8) for a total of 13.
Iowa was able to score those 21 points in the 2nd Half to make the game respectable. The final score of 45-28 was more kind to Iowa than proving the dominance of Tennessee. Although the Vols only scored 3 points in the 4th Quarter, they dominated the game from start to finish.
Iowa’s Quarterback duo of Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard combined for 177 passing yds. Mark Weisman finished with 10 yds rushing but registered 2 TD’s. The big man on the ground for Iowa was Jordan Canzeri, who found his form late in the game, but had 122 yds. The passing game was widespread as 8 different players registered receiving yds. But only one player, Tight End Ray Hamilton, was able to get at least 3 receptions and 50 yds (finished with 51 yds).
The final score of the Tax Slayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida was Tennessee 45, Iowa 28. There’s a lot of readers that have never had the privilege of having the “Bowl” experience. If you are looking for a Bowl with fun activities, in a fun city, and reasonable ticket prices, then the Tax Slayer Bowl is the perfect fit. Not only will you enjoy the beautiful scenery in Jacksonville, but the beach is a stone’s throw away and there are plenty of Bowl related activities for you to enjoy. This particular Bowl has a history of above-par opponents and is guaranteed for the next few years to have an SEC team face someone from the BIG 10/ACC or Notre Dame.
This year has been a Bowl Season to remember and Jacksonville and its historic Gator Bowl, will be waiting for you to create new memories next year.