By Austin Miller
On a hot, balmy day in Tampa Florida, Northwestern saw their season end in disappointing style with a 45-6 loss in the Outback Bowl to Tennessee. Here are our quick reactions to today’s matchup:
· Northwestern’s offense was largely stagnant this afternoon, save for one drive that featured a lot of runs, and ended in points in the first half. Other than that, there wasn’t much for the ‘Cats to be proud of on the offensive side of the ball.
· Coming into the game, Tennessee’s special teams were touted as the better unit, and there’s no question that’s the case after today. Yes, the fake field goal was a terrible call and didn’t work, but beyond that play, Tennessee controlled field position through their punter Trevor Daniel. On top of that, Jack Mitchell missed a makeable field goal, and shanked an extra point, while Hunter Niswander struggled punting the football.
· Clayton Thorson impressed at points this season, there’s no doubts about that, but today was not one of those days. The redshirt freshman finished 8-20 for 57 yards and had a pairYa of ugly interceptions.
· Jalen Hurd is an absolute beast. The Tennessee running back stands at 6-4 240, and looks every bit of it. He dominated things in the second half, and was a big reason the Volunteers controlled the football in the latter parts of the game. At points, Hurd just trucked Northwestern defenders, using his dominant physical frame.
· Tennessee’s control of the time of possession meant that as the afternoon wore on, Northwestern’s defense looked progressively more and more gassed.
· Big fan of the spiffy uniforms Northwestern brought out for this one. The helmet numbers were a nice touch. Paired with Tennessee’s classic orange look, this game looked very nice overall.
· Justin Jackson had a great season,but it just didn’t’ seem like he was able to get going today. Part of that is probably due to Tennessee’s physicality, and another can most likely be pinned on a second half that saw Northwestern behind on the scoreboard, and routinely behind on the chains.
· Good move by Pat Fitzgerald and company to give Zack Oliver a little run at the end of this one. The senior has put his time in with the program, and it’s nice to see him have a little bit of time to close out his career.
· Northwestern finished the season with 10 wins, which is a really good season for that program. That said, the fact that this team won 10 games shouldn’t take away from just how poor of a performance this was today. There’s a lot of positives to take into next season, for sure, but there’s also a lot to work on in preparation for next year’s season opener against Western Michigan.