Nebraska: 24 Tennessee: 38
Offensive Player of the Game: Brandon Reilly
The senior wide out finished his last game in a scarlet jersey with two touchdown grabs. Reilly caught his first and second touchdown passes of the season in this one and was responsible for 14 of the Huskers 24 points. He ended the game with four catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Not a bad way to exit Lincoln for the former walk-on.
Defensive Player of the Game: Joshua Kalu
It was hard to pick a star out of this defensive meltdown, but the junior corner stood out on more than a few plays. Kalu ended the game with a team-high eight tackles. The starting corner was also responsible for three pass-breakups and had a nice open-field tackle to save a score. Playing a good game heading into the next season should be a confidence booster.
The Moment It Was Over:
Ryker Fyfe was sacked on 3rd and long in 4th quarter to deflate any momentum Nebraska had remaining in a comeback attempt. In their second to last drive of the game, Tennessee’s Derek Barrett came untouched around the edge and sacked the senior from Grand Island to halt any dreams of winning the final game of the season.
What A Nebraska Loss Means:
Losing the Music City Bowl is not as bad as it seems, but it this one stung a little bit. After starting the year 7-0, Nebraska finished out the second half of the season 2-4. Losing on ESPN also may hurt the Huskers in the recruiting game with National Signing Day creeping up.
* First and foremost, Nebraska’s offensive line made Derek Barrett look like a top five NFL draft pick. Lining up against the Huskers’ best offensive lineman Nick Gates, Barrett finished the game with six tackles, one behind the line and one being a sack. What the stats won’t show was the pressure he continuously put on Ryker Fyfe. Barrett’s presence forced hurried and inaccurate throws from the Grand Island native.
* Nebraska’s defense could not come up with a stop when they needed to the most. Each time the Huskers scored a touchdown and looked to be right back into the game, the Blackshirts surrendered a touchdown instead of building on momentum after a punt. If Nebraska would have forced a punt after their score in the 4th quarter, the end result may not have been the same.
* Senior defensive end Ross Dzuris recorded six tackles, one of which was an 11-yard stop behind the line. The senior from Plattsmouth ended the year leading the team in tackles for loss on the season with 11.
* True freshman Lamar Jackson started his first game of the year and played fairly well. Jackson ended the game with a career-high eight tackles and showed good signs going forward into his career in Lincoln.
* De’Mornay Pierson-El looked sharp in this one and had team-high five receptions for 49 yards. Despite fumbling early in the second half, the junior may have proved that he could be the first option at wide receiver next season.
* Sophomore running back Devine Ozigbo ran with something to prove today. After filling the role of an injured Terrell Newby, Ozigbo had 66 yards in just seven carries. It will be an intense battle between Ozigbo and Bryant for the starting role for next year, but the Texas native may have some confidence and momentum heading into next season.
* Missed tackles were obviously the biggest weakness that stood out on defense for the Blackshirts. It’s tough to say how many there were, but it’s a safe bet to say there was at least one missed tackle on every Vol’s drive.
* True freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn had a steady day punting, and may have saved this game from being an early blowout. On his seven punts on the day, Lightbourn averaged 42.7 yards per punt, including a 50-yarder. After being incredibly inconsistent all year on punting, it’s a great sign for Nebraska’s special teams going forward that they might have a punter who has finally found his niche.