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.
Tailback Devine Ozigbo led the team in rushing with 66 yards after taking over for an injured Terrell Newby as the Cornhuskers closed out the season with a nice bounce back record of 9-4.
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.
It wasn’t always pretty for Tennessee to start the Music City Bowl but eventually the offense started to click in the second quarter and the defense put forward their best effort in months to help the Vols hold a 21-7 halftime lead over Nebraska.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs showed off his arm (163 yards) and his legs (71 yards, two touchdowns) against the Blackshirt defense as he looks to close out his career with a postseason win. John Kelly was nearly as effective running the ball as his signal-caller and finished with 53 yards and a score on the ground while Alvin Kamara chipped in with 49 yards of total offense as well.
While there were several positives to build off offensively for the Vols, things weren’t so rosy in the half for the opposite number. Ryker Fyfe was very shaky in his first start for the team at quarterback but did throw a beautiful touchdown strike to Brandon Reilly just a few minutes before the whistle to cut into the lead and give the team some late life. One issue for the second half might be the lone running threat for the team, Terrell Newby, appears to be out with an injury.
Hopefully the play for both squads will pick up after a few adjustments in the locker room as neither side played all that sharply until the final five minutes of the second quarter. The Music City Bowl was one of the more attractive matchups of the postseason based on the caliber of programs involved, but the play has not quite matched so far for two teams who desperately want to grab a victory.
If you’re looking for a shootout to watch on Saturday night, you probably knew better than to tune in for No. 7 Nebraska and No. 11 Wisconsin.
The Big Ten West showdown was a defensive struggle for the most part in the first half as the Badgers held onto a narrow 10-7 lead after the second quarter in a game that was as ugly as the scoreline indicated.
The Cornhuskers entered the contest undefeated thanks in part because of the solid play from quarterback Tommy Armstrong but he has not been able to continue that against one of the best defenses in the country, going just 4-of-13 for 59 yards and two interceptions. It probably says plenty about the Badgers’ front seven that tailback Terrell Newby led the team in rushing with just 43 yards on the ground.
It’s not like the Wisconsin offense looked all that much better though, using a two play drive to score their only touchdown. Running back Corey Clement had just 15 yards on eight carries and was one reason why the team struggled to convert on third down (2-of-8). The Alex Hornibrook/Bart Houston tandem at quarterback failed to get much of anything going in the passing game, going a combined 8-of-14 for just 82 yards in the first half.
The Badgers do get the ball back to start the third quarter and, based on how things have gone so far, it probably won’t take many more points to wrap this one up and take down yet another team from the ranks of the undefeated today.
Tommy Armstrong wasn’t having a great day at all under center but he came up big when No. 10 Nebraska needed it during the second half to keep the Cornhuskers undefeated in a 27-22 win at Indiana on Saturday.
The quarterback was just 10-of-26 passing with two interceptions for the game but somehow, someway found Stanley Morgan Jr. for a huge 72 yard score in the fourth quarter and later converted on fourth and short to help seal the win.
Tailback Terrell Newby (102 yards, one TD) also contributed on a day where the Hoosiers’ defense was stifling but nearly opened the door back up for the home team by fumbling on a run in the final drive. Replay allowed the Cornhuskers to keep the ball and eventually put the game away but not before giving Big Red a minor heart attack.
Defensively, Chris Jones also added a big play by scoring on an interception return for a touchdown.
Indiana was down 17-0 after the first quarter but clawed their way back into the game by successfully using a two-quarterback system. Richard Lagow was effective when he wasn’t being chased from the pocket (196 yards, one TD, two picks) while Zander Diamont added more of a two dimensional threat out of the backfield and was the second leading rusher and passer for the Hoosiers on the day.
The win keeps Nebraska perfect on the year and makes them bowl eligible just a season after needing an exemption to get into the postseason. The Cornhuskers likely remain the favorite in the Big Ten West but are certainly a bit lucky to escape with a road win in conference play on Saturday in Bloomington.
It was a tale of two quarters in Bloomington.
Nebraska was up 17-0 in the blink of an eye during the first quarter but Indiana clawed their way back into the game by mixing things up in the second quarter to cut the lead to 17-8 at halftime in an entertaining Big Ten game.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was just four of 11 for the Cornhuskers in the first half and never could find a rhythm in the passing game. Tailback Terrell Newby was the Nebraska offense as a result, punching it in for a touchdown while averaging 4.5 yards a carry.
Chris Jones added the other score in the first quarter for Nebraska, racing 33 yards for a pick-six that looked more like a punt return the way it was set up.
Indiana clawed its way back into the game during the second however. Chase Dutra blocked a punt with the Cornhuskers backed up into its own end zone, with the ball rolling out of bounds for a safety. Griffin Oakes added a pair of field goals to cut into the lead even further.
Quarterback Richard Lagow (11-of-19, 89 yards) was under siege on just about every snap to contribute to the Hoosiers’ offensive struggles. They did rotate in backup Zander Diamont, who helped get things going by running the ball for 17 yards and provided a bit of a dual-threat out of the backfield that confused the Blackshirt defense.
You can count on both teams trying to make significant adjustments on offense after going just 5-of-16 on third down during a rather choppy first half of another Big Ten showdown.