Tennessee (8-5) overcame a 16-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to edge Indiana (8-5) in the Gator Bowl Thursday night in Jacksonville. Two touchdowns within 30 seconds of each other pushed the Vols out in front, 23-22, and Indiana’s long field goal attempt to regain the lead in the final minutes fell no good. Jeremy Pruitt won his first bowl game as head coach of the Vols, while Indiana’s bowl win drought drags on for another year.
After sitting out the first half to serve a suspension, Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings entered the game after halftime. Any hope of Jennings providing a spark for the Vols seemingly faded as Jarrett Guarantano was intercepted by Jamar Johnson on Tennessee’s third play of the second half (after Indiana scored a go-ahead touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter). Johnson returned the interception 63 yards for a touchdown, giving Indiana a 16-6 lead after a missed extra point attempt. Jennings ended the game with two receptions for 27 yards.
Tennessee pulled closer with a field goal on the next possession and came closer with a long touchdown drive with Quavis Crouch running form the one-yard line to bring the Vols within six points. Indiana was not prepared for an onside kick, which was recovered easily by Tennessee, and Eric Gray gave the Vols the 23-22 lead with a 16-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Indiana defense.
Tennessee had opportunities to build a big lead in the first half but managed to score just six points on three red-zone trips. Indiana had a turnover on downs and the Vols settled for two field goals on their other trips, allowing Indiana to hang around at halftime. Indiana dominated the third quarter with a 16-3 advantage in the third quarter to take a 19-6 lead into the fourth quarter.
The win by Tennessee improved the SEC to 7-2 this bowl season, easily the best bowl record among all conferences this bowl season. The SEC is 2-1 against the ACC (with LSU facing Clemson in the national championship game), 3-0 against the Big 12 and 2-1 against the Big Ten. The Big Ten closes out its postseason with a 4-5 record with losing records to the SEC and Pac-12 (1-2) and drawing even with the ACC (1-1).
Indiana will open the 2020 season with a Big Ten opener in Madison. The Hoosiers visit reigning Big Ten West Division champion Wisconsin on Sept. 5 to begin the new season. Indiana will host Western Kentucky in their home opener the following week on Sept. 12.
Tennessee will open its 2020 season at home against Charlotte on Sept. 5. The Vols travel to Oklahoma the following week and close out September with a home game against Florida.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. This week, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost allowed his team to come out wearing black jerseys with the idea it would fire up his team to get a big win at home. Maybe next time they’ll wear some other color, because the black jerseys did nothing on Saturday as Indiana left Lincoln, Nebraska with a 38-31 victory. But even more than that, Indiana has officially clinched bowl eligibility before the month of November and has a chance to clinch its first winning season since 2007 with a full month of games to play.
For Tom Allen, getting to bowl eligibility has been an elusive goal the past couple of seasons. After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, Indiana has finally gotten back over the hump and it won’t have to come down to the final week of the regular season. An emotional Allen after the game reflected on how hard his team has worked to get to this point, and hinted at some tough situations nobody outside the program was aware of.
Peyton Ramsey passed for 351 yards and two touchdowns in the winning effort for the Hoosiers. Whop Philyor was on the receiving end for 178 of those yards on 14 receptions. The defense was not required in this game, although Indiana did force two Nebraska turnovers. Both teams combined for 969 yards of total offense, both teams were converting on about half of their third-down tries to extend drives. A 15-3 scoring advantage in the third quarter flipped the game in Indiana’s favor as they were able to hold off Nebraska.
Indiana’s last winning season came in 2007 with a 7-6 record. Although Indiana went to bowl games in 2015 and 2016, the Hoosiers ended the year with bowl losses and 6-7 final records. Indiana has not won a bowl game since the 1991 season with a Copper Bowl victory over Baylor.
While Indiana already has bowl eligibility locked up with four games remaining in November, Nebraska is now in need of two more wins with time beginning to run out. Nebraska will try to get one win closer to bowl eligibility next week on the road against Purdue. The Huskers have their two toughest games remaining at home, against Wisconsin on Nov. 16 and against Iowa on Nov. 29. It’s possible Nebraska’s bowl hopes will have to be satisfied on the road (at Purdue and at Maryland on Nov. 23).
Nebraska has not missed a bowl season in three consecutive seasons since a stretch from 1955 through 1961.
Graduate transfer quarterback Brandon Dawkins is once again on the move with the start of the new college football season just days away. Dawkins has reportedly left Indiana a week after the Hoosiers opted to go with Peyton Ramsey as the team’s starting quarterback for the 2018 season. What comes next for him remains unknown at this time.
Dawkins transferred to Indiana from Arizona in April after graduating from the Pac-12 school. As a graduate transfer, Dawkins was eligible to play right away this fall, but it does not seem Dawkins was content to moving to Bloomington to not be the team’s starter.
“We wish (Dawkins) nothing but the very best, fine young man,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said in a press conference on Monday, according to Indy Star. “Very excited about the two guys I consider our top two quarterbacks, Peyton Ramsey and Michael Penix.”
Indiana now has two quarterbacks on scholarship heading into the 2018 season; Ramsey and freshman Penix. Allen announced Reese Taylor will move from defensive backs to quarterback, a position he previously played in high school.
Indiana opens the 2018 season on the road against FIU on Saturday, September 1.