Tom Shatel, Omaha World-Herald: Without excellence up front on offense, Huskers resort to chucking it
Nebraska football lost the Music City Bowl on Friday, 38-24, to a Tennessee team that was probably too talented to be in this game.
But Tennessee talent isn’t the headline today. Nor is it the absence of three Husker stars in this game. Or how the program moves forward to a fresh outlook, with a new quarterback at the helm.
Lee might be all that and a bag of Runzas, but the quarterback transfer from Tulane won’t have a magic wand to fix what holds back Husker football.
It was on display again here before a chilly, animated sellout crowd at Nissan Stadium.
Missing were quarterback Tommy Armstrong and receiver Jordan Westerkamp, two all-time NU record-holders.
But present and accounted for were offensive linemen Nick Gates, Jerald Foster, Dylan Utter, Tanner Farmer and Cole Conrad.
And Nebraska rushed 28 times for 61 yards against Tennessee’s defense.
Yes, Vols defensive end Derek Barnett does a nice Reggie White imitation. But Tennessee’s defense gave up 420 yards rushing to Missouri in November.
A month ago, the Vols gave up 192 yards on the ground to Vanderbilt.
And the Huskers go for 2.2 yards per rush against these guys?
Steve Sipple, Lincoln Journal-Star: Huskers not only need to upgrade talent, but execution and tenacity
It would be unfair to harshly criticize Nebraska for this loss — to really hammer the Huskers. After all, NU was a double-digit underdog with three of its best seniors (Tommy Armstrong, Jordan Westerkamp and Nate Gerry) watching the action. After a fourth senior, running back Terrell Newby, left the game for good in the second quarter with an injury, well, Tennessee's talent advantage became that much more decisive.
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst was emphatic earlier this week in saying the Huskers need to upgrade talent throughout the roster using "tenacity in recruiting." He's right, of course. But does that mean every less-talented team in sports should just throw up their hands and concede? The talent discussion can become a cop out — an excuse for lack of execution and, well, let's call it a lack of "tenacity in effort."
For too much of this loss, Nebraska's fourth in its last six games, the Huskers didn't play with enough tenacity — certainly not enough to overcome a Tennessee team that had its best players, Derek Barnett and Joshua Dobbs, clicking at a high level.
The part of Reilly's message that Nebraska fans should hope resonates is the bit about returning players holding each other to a high standard. The standards seemingly need to rise.
Joe Rexrode, Knoxville News-Sentinel: Vols come to play, and that means something
The day couldn’t have been much better for Vols fans — crisp, sunny weather until night fell; a full stadium with about 70 percent of the 68,496 on hand in orange; and an encouraging response on the field, one month after a 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt a few blocks from here.
The embattled Jones needed this win to curb some of the negativity and make it consecutive nine-win seasons, and he showed that he can get his guys to tackle some of the other guys at times. The Vols played like a motivated and focused team, not one facing a culture crisis.
John Adams, The Tennesseean: Tennessee thrives in Big Ten West
The Cornhuskers began the afternoon at a disadvantage. But while injuries deprived them of quarterback Tommy Armstrong and leading wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, that didn’t account for their most glaring deficiency: speed.
It was painfully apparent on both sides of the ball. And it was noticeable right away, whether running back Terrell Newby was struggling to turn the corner or the defense was trying futilely to keep up with Dobbs.
By the end of the first quarter, Tennessee fans might have been wondering how the Cornhuskers ever managed a 7-0 start to the season or took Wisconsin into overtime before losing. Instead, Nebraska looked more like the bunch that lost to Ohio State 62-3 and to Iowa 40-10.
How bad was Nebraska? Bad enough to make UT’s defense looked dominant at times.
Overheard 3 Tennessee defenders talking about @brandonreilly87: "He was making plays, man. The Patriots need to sign him right now."— Robin Washut (@RobinWashut) December 31, 2016
Doctors told me I shouldn't play, colleges gave up, but HUSKER nation stayed the same! Reached a life goal tonight, I proved ppl wrong! #GBR— Zeus (@DarlingtonZack) December 31, 2016
Former All American Steve says we have to get it done and the only way to do it is to get it done. #Huskers— Husker Radio Caller (@NURadioCaller) December 31, 2016
Mark Banker talking about the need for (more) speed. pic.twitter.com/OZ7QhbqQY3— Brian Christopherson (@HuskerExtraBC) December 31, 2016
Mike Riley: 'This is kind of the end of one team, the beginning of another'#Huskers— Josh Planos (@JPlanos) December 31, 2016
Ryker Fyfe walks in. Riley points to him: “this guy played a heck of a game.”— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) December 31, 2016
In 13 games, #Huskers QBs exceeded 50% passing only 6 times. Hard to imagine that happening next year.— Kevin Thomas (@KevinThomasKLIN) December 31, 2016
Thankyou Husker Nation for the unbelievable support this season, I'm always so proud to be a Husker, see you next season✊— Drew Brown (@Drewdbrown34) December 31, 2016
Gotta say thanks to the seniors who put it all on the line, played for one another and were about the team. They had a few who didn't!— Jay Foreman (@foreman5644) December 31, 2016