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.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers were already going to be slightly undermanned for their matchup with Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, but now they are even more so. Safety Nate Gerry and defensive back Boaz Joseph have been ruled ineligible for the Music City Bowl, according to Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.
Gerry took to Twitter to provide some clarity as to why exactly he was ruled ineligible for the bowl game. A failure to meet academic requirements ended up being the reason, according to Gerry.
As a result, Gerry’s college career comes to an end. He certainly left a mark on the Nebraska program during his time in Lincoln, earning All-Big Ten honors and finishing his Nebraska career sixth on the school’s all-time tackles list. Gerry leaves Nebraska with 13 career interceptions, putting him just one shy of the school record of 14 owned by Dana Stephenson from 1967-1969. Gerry is tied for second with Josh Bullocks (2002-2004).
It was revealed last week Nebraska will be without the services of wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp for the Music City Bowl. Westerkamp was scheduled for surgery for an injured meniscus, bringing his Nebraska career to a close as well.
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.
For the second consecutive week, Nebraska will be without one of the most experienced and productive members of their passing game.
Late this past week, Mike Riley officially ruled Jordan Westerkamp out of Saturday’s game against Purdue. The wide receiver sustained an injury to his back during the Week 5 win over Illinois, and was briefly hospitalized after being hit by an Illini defender.
He missed last Saturday’s win over Indiana because of the injury
The good news is that not only does the head coach expect Westerkamp to return to practice this coming Tuesday, but it’s very likely that, barring a setback, he will play in the key Week 9 Big Ten West matchup with Wisconsin in Madison. The Cornhuskers currently lead the division at 3-0, while the Badgers, at 1-2, are looking to remain within shouting distance.
At the time of the injury, Westerkamp led the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns (four) and tied for the team lead in receptions (13). His 228 receiving yards were second behind Alonzo Moore‘s 310.
Last season, Westerkamp led the ‘Huskers in all three of those categories.