The Vols may have started slow and with some sloppy play in the first quarter and gave fans a scare in the fourth quarter, but that didn’t stop them from running away with a 38-24 victory over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl to cap the 2016 football season.
Records were broken, stats were padded, and Tennessee’s seniors ended their career with a win.
Here are the five biggest observations from the Vols’ Music City Bowl victory over Nebraska.
Josh Dobbs Goes Out With a Bang
In his final game as a Tennessee Volunteer, quarterback Joshua Dobbs went out in style. Dobbs may have only thrown for one touchdown, but he made up for it with three scores on the ground, a Music City Bowl record. Dobbs totaled 409 yards of offense (291 passing, 118 rushing) and had four total scores to help propel the Vols to their Music City Bowl win.
Dobbs finishes his career with 53 passing touchdowns and 32 rushing scores. He was 13 yards away from breaking Peyton Manning’s record for most yards gained in a single season after this bowl game. Dobbs also broke Tennessee’s record for most rushing scores by a quarterback in a season with his 12th and final rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Derek Barnett Gets the Record
It took him almost the entire game, but Derek Barnett finally surpassed Reggie White’s career sack mark.
Barnett was officially credited with four quarterback hurries to go along with that sack, but it felt like much more as the clock ticked down at the Music City Bowl and Barnett kept getting closer and closer to his 33rd career sack.
But finally, Barnett crashed the end, eluded the tackle, and brought down the quarterback late in the fourth quarter.
Barnett’s 13 sacks on the season are also the third-most in a single season in Tennessee history. Only Jonathan Brown (13.5 in 1997) and Reggie White (15 in 1983) had more in a season.
Josh Dobbs wasn’t the only senior who ended his Tennessee career on a high note against Nebraska.
Cam Sutton, Malik Foreman, Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis, and Jason Croom were also playing their last games as Vols in the Music City Bowl, and five of them put together solid games.
Sutton only registered one tackle, but he wasn’t burned consistently like Tennessee’s other corners were. Foreman forced another fumble and broke up a pass. Vereen picked up a sack and a quarterback hurry, while Lewis led the team with seven tackles and had a sack of his own. Jason Croom hauled in two passes for 38 yards.
Run Defense Shows Up
After an abysmal end to the 2016 regular season when it came to stopping an opponent’s rushing attack, Tennessee’s run defense came out and stood strong against Nebraska.
The Vols held Nebraska to just 61 yards on 28 carries in the Music City Bowl after allowing 1,055 yards in the final three games of the regular season to Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. Nebraska’s starting running back, Terrell Newby had a mere 15 yards on nine carries. The Cornhuskers’ leading rusher was Devine Ozigbo with 66 yards on seven attempts.
Tennessee’s run defense was porous in the last half of the regular season. But it showed up in a big way against Nebraska.
Vols Dominate the Big Ten Again
For the third straight season, the Vols took care of business against Big Ten opponent in a bowl game.
Tennessee looked like the better team throughout the entire Music City Bowl against Nebraska, but it wasn’t even the most impressive victory the Vols have had against a Big 10 team in a bowl game the last few seasons. The Vols have now defeated Iowa, Northwestern, and Nebraska by a combined score of 128-58.
The Vols outgained Nebraska 521 to 318 and were able to sack the Husker’s quarterback four times while never allowing Dobbs to be sacked, and averaged 2.4 more yards per play than Nebraska.