Given the high expectations, a Music City Bowl triumph isn’t exactly how Tennessee imagined ending their season. The Vols will certainly take it after a late slump in conference play though and ended with a nice postseason flourish by holding off a pesky Nebraska squad 38-24 on Friday night in Nashville.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs played a big part in the team’s victory by utilizing his arm and his legs in impressive fashion. The senior signal-caller threw for 291 yards and a touchdown — including a 59-yard scoring strike in the fourth to all but seal the victory — while also rushing for 118 yards and three more touchdowns. That was good enough to pace the team in both categories, with some distance between him and John Kelly (70 yards, one score).
As good a day as the offense had though, UT defensive end Derek Barnett was the best player on the field as he likely played his final game with the team. While he didn’t stuff the stat sheet with just six tackles, he was a factor on nearly every snap and applied constant pressure when rushing the passer. Barnett came close about a dozen times to getting to the quarterback and finally got him for his 33rd career sack with just over three minutes left in the game, moving him past Hall of Famer Reggie White for the school all-time record.
A lot of that had to do with Nebraska quarterback Ryker Fyfe, making his first start for the Cornhuskers in place of an injured Tommy Armstrong, getting rid of the ball quickly whenever he felt pressure. The signal-caller finished with 243 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for another as the team made things interesting with a nice comeback in the fourth quarter but never could overcome the speed and skill of the Vols.
On the flip side, things didn’t quite go as planned in Knoxville in 2016, but the team got the ending they wanted in the Volunteer State and were able to knock off old nemesis Nebraska in a fun Music City Bowl.