Tennessee Volunteers 38, Nebraska Cornhuskers 24
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Tennessee’s 38-24 victory over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Quarterback grade: Joshua Dobbs, 82.0
Dobbs’ rushing leads the way for Vols' offense
Dobbs had his moments through the air—he finished the game with a 75.7 adjusted completion percentage and connected with Josh Malone on a very pretty deep post for his only passing touchdown. Where the Tennessee QB really stood out, though, was running the ball. Dobbs finished the day with 117 rushing yards and three touchdowns while forcing four missed tackles; 41 of those yards and two of the touchdowns resulted from non-designed QB scrambles.
Top offensive grades:
QB Joshua Dobbs, 82.0
C Coleman Thomas, 79.6
TE Jason Croom, 76.5
WR Josh Malone, 74.7
HB John Kelly, 68.6
Up-and-down game from the offense
This wasn't a great game from Tennessee’s offense overall, a unit that really benefitted from Dobbs’ playmaking ability when things broke down. Coleman Thomas led the offensive line, as he only allowed one QB pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps. Tennessee's offensive line in total only surrendered seven QB pressures on the day, with just one of those being a hit. Tight end Jason Croom had just two catches on three targets for 38 yards, but his 80.0 run-blocking grade led the Volunteers. WR Josh Malone caught five of six targets for 120 yards and a touchdown, and John Kelly gained 62 of his 70 yards after contact while forcing five missed tackles.
Top defensive grades:
CB Malik Foreman, 89.9
ED Derek Barnett, 86.5
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr., 83.9
CB Cameron Sutton, 80.3
ED LaTroy Lewis, 74.1
Record-setting night for Barnett
Barnett entered Saturday’s game needing just one sack to break Reggie White’s school sack record, and for much of the game, it felt like that one sack was just barely going to elude him. In the end, he recorded the record-breaking sack with 3:46 seconds to go in the game, after already tallying a staggering 12 pressures throughout the earlier stages of the outing. Barnett finished the night with 13 pressures—his highest total of the season—on 39 pass-rushing snaps. In the secondary, Malik Foreman allowed just three catches on seven targets for 66 yards—39 of those yards were gained on an incredible catch by Brandon Reilly—while also tallying a pass breakup. Kirkland led the team with six tackles, with five of those going for stops (a stop is a solo tackle that constitutes as a loss for the offense, given the situation).
Quarterback grade: Ryker Fyfe, 63.0
Fyfe folds under pressure
Fyfe threw the ball well when he was given a clean pocket to work with, connecting on 14 of 23 attempts for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and a 120.4 QB rating on throws coming without pressure. When pressure got to him, though—and it did on 17 of his 40 dropbacks—he was able to complete just three of 14 passes for just 32 yards, good for a 39.6 QB rating.
Top offensive grades:
WR Brandon Reilly, 84.2
LG Jerald Foster, 72.8
WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, 68.7
WR Bryan Reimers, 65.8
G Tanner Farmer, 63.5
Wide receiver Brandon Reilly stands out
Brandon Reilly only hauled in four of 11 targets, but he did damage with those four catches. Two of them went for touchdowns, and then he hauled in a ridiculous grab for 39 yards down the right sideline over Malik Foreman. In a day where the Nebraska offense had very little going for it, Reilly shined especially bright. Along the offensive line, Farmer and Jerald Foster surrendered just a pressure apiece (both allowing one hurry), while the other three members of the offensive line combined to allow 15 pressures between them.
Top defensive grades:
DI Kevin Maurice, 79.6
LB Dedrick Young II, 75.6
ED Freedom Akinmoladun, 71.7
LB Antonio Reed, 70.5
ED Ross Dzuris, 69.3
Interior defender Kevin Maurice finishes season strong
After some relatively lackluster performances against Iowa and Maryland, following an absolutely dominant game against Minnesota, Kevin Maurice bounced back against Tennessee to finish the season on a strong note. Maurice led all players in this game with an 83.6 grade in run defense, while tacking on two hurries as a pass-rusher. Akinmoladun tied with Carlos Davis to lead the defense with four total QB pressures, while Dzuris led the defense with four stops.
PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy.