The 2015 college football season is officially behind us and the Tennessee Volunteers capped it off with a big 45-6 victory over #13 Northwestern. Several observations arose from Tennessee’s performance in the 30th annual Outback Bowl. Here are five of them.
Slow Start: First and foremost, early penalties made this game start a little messy. Multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties added up 50 yards against the Vols within the first few minutes of the game and made it difficult for everyone watching the game to gauge how the game would really go. Normally Tennessee has starts fast and scores early before slowing down as the game goes on. Luckily for Tennessee fans, the team was able to calm down and get their bearings as the Vols owned the game after the first quarter.
Aggressive Coaching: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Butch Jones had not one, not two, but three instances of somewhat aggressive play-calling. And considering he is known for being extremely conservative, even when the risk is low, that’s a big deal. Before the half, Tennessee got the ball with around 45 seconds to go. Up 17-6, most of us expected Jones to kneel it and go to the locker room. Instead, Dobbs dropped back to pass, trying to score again. Although Dobbs was sacked, it was still nice to see the attempt. Later in the game, Jones went for it on fourth and one, feeding Jalen Hurd who converted and later scored a touchdown. And although it ended ugly, Jones faked a field goal with a trick play. Still, it was fun to watch.
Vol Faithful: Once again, Tennessee fans proved to be extremely loyal as Raymond-James Stadium was easily 75% orange. Vol Nation flooded Tampa and made it their home away from home to give the Vols a true home-field advantage against Northwestern. The Wildcats definitely proudly represented their team but the Tennessee faithful travel with the best teams in the nation. And just for good measure, they gave Wildcat fans a healthy dose of “SEC” chants.
D#: See what I did there? Defense, defense, defense. Tennessee’s defense allowed just 261 yards of total offense and was in the face of Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson all game long. The secondary had an outstanding game compiling four interceptions, including one returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Evan Berry. And the defensive line and linebackers collected eight tackles for loss including four sacks and a forced fumble by Derek Barnett. And allowing just one touchdown on the day is worthy of today’s performance being the best Tennessee’s defense has had all year.
#HurdMode: Everyone knows about beast-mode, but it’s time we start talking about Hurd-mode. The sophomore was listed as doubtful before the game with a hamstring injury, but he didn’t let that stop him from eating Wildcat for lunch. The young bruiser had 130 yards rushing on 24 attempts with a touchdown and was named the MVP of the Outback Bowl. And in case you missed it, check out this stiff-arm Hurd delivered to a Wildcat defender. Yeah, #HurdMode.
Jalen Hurd is a machine. https://t.co/X9PwHbxEFH
— SaturdaysAreReserved (@SAR_Football) January 1, 2016