The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football players etch several milestones during Citrus Bowl loss to Tennessee

The few bright spots for the Hawkeyes could be found on the defense and special teams, where punter Tory Taylor and linebacker Jay Higgins each found themselves atop the record book by the final whistle.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa punter Tory Taylor punts the ball during the 2024 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl between No. 17 Iowa and No. 21 Tennessee at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. Taylor set an NCAA record with 12.55 left in the first quarter. Taylor set the record for single-season punting yards with 4,479 punting yards. The Volunteers defeated the Hawkeyes, 35-0.

ORLANDO, Fla. – While the most poignant stat of Iowa’s 35-0 loss to Tennessee in the 2024 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl was the margin of defeat (the worst in Hawkeye football bowl history), several other numerical milestones were reached for those donning the Black and Gold. 

The first of these records was achieved in the opening minutes of the game, as Iowa punter Tory Taylor got to see the field of Camping World Stadium fairly quickly. After the Hawkeyes’ opening drive went three-and-out, the Australian got the fans on their feet with a 62-yard boot.

Soaring across the warm Florida air, the pigskin hit the turf with a favorable bounce, bounding towards the opposing end zone before being downed by Hawkeye John Nestor at the 22-yard line. The Hawkeyes had flipped the field for the nth time this season, and Taylor surpassed a record 86 years in the making. 

Finishing the game with seven boots totaling 360 yards, the 26-year-old finished the final season of his collegiate career with 93 punts, amassing 4,479 yards and breaking the record set in 1938 by Michigan State’s Johnny Pingel in 1938. 

When asked about the antiquity of his record, as it was set before the Spartans even joined the Big Ten, Taylor shrugged and provided a memorable quip. 

“I might be dead by the time it’s broken, who knows?” he said with a grin during his postgame media availability. 

While it’s worth mentioning that Taylor needed more games than Pingel to beat the record, his average was superior. Taylor’s yards per punt topped the Big Ten this season – a title he is much prouder to hold. 

“Stats can be misleading,” he said, even adding that his 63-yarder wasn’t that stellar of an attempt. 

Even though having the most punting yards typically equates to being on a team with a poor offense, Taylor isn’t letting that correlation drag down his pride. 

“I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but it’s obviously pretty cool to go down in the record book,” he said. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins led the unit in tackles, a feat he’s accomplished numerous times this season. Yet Higgins’ 16 against the Volunteers placed him on another leaderboard: tied for first as the program’s all-time single-season record-holder. The senior, along with former Hawkeye Andree Jackson in 1972, each produced 171 tackles in a lone campaign. 

For Higgins, his outstanding performance wasn’t so much a product of himself, or even a result of pure skill, either.

“Maybe it’s just the system I’m in,” Higgins said. “I just tried to go out there and help my teammates, just do my job. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the ball, so I can’t say I’ve given any special effort or cracked the code where I know where the ball’s going to go every play.

“I just think if you play with relentless effort, if you play extremely hard for the guy playing next to you, sometimes you fall into a couple of plays.” 

For Iowa sixth-year senior Joe Evans, the final game of his Hawkeye career produced a career-high in sacks, as the defensive end collected four to lead his squad against the Volunteers. In his postgame press conference, Evans was complimentary of the whole defensive line for getting to opposing quarterback Nico Iamaleava. Not one to talk much about himself, Evans’ teammates’ words provided a more resolute image. 

For Virginia transfer Nick Jackson, Evans’ was one of the first people he met in Iowa City. The linebacker explained how during his first time in the Iowa locker room, Evans introduced himself, gave him his cell phone number, and drove him around downtown for a lay of the land. 

“For him to come out and compete like that in his last game, somebody in the NFL is going to be very, very lucky to have Joe Evans on their team,” Jackson said. “I’m very lucky to have him as a teammate … that’s just something super special that you don’t have everywhere.” 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.