Rapid reaction: Tennessee dominates Northwestern 45-6
Here are some quick thoughts on No. 23 Tennessee’s 45-6 win over No. 13 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
What it means: Tennessee got its 2016 off to a great start with an Outback Bowl win over Northwestern. The Volunteers will try to use this victory as a springboard for their 2016 regular season — a season in which Tennessee may be favored to win the SEC East.
What I liked:
- Tennessee’s defensive line and linebackers consistently got pressure on Northwestern freshman QB Clayton Thorson, accumulating four sacks and forcing him to make quick decisions. The Vols’ defense also did a solid job of stopping Northwestern’s rushing attack and forcing the Wildcats into third-and-long situations throughout the game. Tennessee also held Northwestern to 4-for-15 on third-down conversions.
- As a result of pressure on Thorson, the redshirt freshman made many mistakes, including three interceptions. Tennessee won the turnover battle 4-0.
- Tennessee’s offense was methodical — particularly in the second half when the Vols scored 21 points on offense.
What I didn’t like:
- Tennessee had three personal-foul penalties in the first quarter. The first one forced PK Aaron Medley to attempt a tough 49-yard field goal, and he missed it. The next two personal foul penalties occurred on defense after Medley’s missed field goal, and they helped keep the Wildcats’ drive alive before Jack Mitchel missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt. The Vols need to learn to keep their composure if they plan on competing for an SEC championship next year.
- On fourth-and-10 from Northwestern’s 32-yard line at the beginning of the third quarter, Tennessee attempted a fake field-goal pass with holder Patrick Ashford. The play had no chance from the start and it was costly considering Tennessee only had an 11-point lead at that time.
Who’s the man: RB Jalen Hurd seemingly broke tackles on every one of his 24 rushing attempts, and he accounted for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Key play: Jalen Hurd’s 3-yard TD run in the third quarter gave Tennessee a 24-6 lead, and with the way Tennessee’s defense was playing, the game was practically out of reach for Northwestern and its lackluster offense.
What’s next: Now it’s all about the 2016 season. Tennessee will try to obtain another solid recruiting class. The Vols might have a chance to have a special team next year.