If you woke up late on New Year's Day, you aren't alone. It appears as if the Northwestern Wildcats football team may have as well. Not sure how else you can explain a 45-6 steamrolling the Cats took against the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2016 Outback Bowl. It may have been sunny and 79 degrees in Tampa, but the steel gray of a winter's day in Chicago followed the team south. The lopsided defeat leaves a bad impression on what was otherwise a successful season for NU.
Leading the way for the Vols were quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. The team amassed 420 yards of total offense, 226 of which came on the ground. Hurd led the way with 130 yards on 24 carries and added a touchdown. If you aren't a math person (I'm certainly not), that's a lofty 5.4 yards per carry. Dobbs added two rushing touchdowns of his own, along with 48 yards. He threw for 166 as well, but the main focus was the rushing game.
The lone offensive bright spot for NU was Justin Jackson. He carried the ball 14 times and gained 74 yards, adding the Cats' lone score of the day. Clayton Thorson completed only eight of his 20 pass attempts for just 57 yards, and threw two interceptions. He finishes the season with seven TD throws, and nine picks. Senior Zach Oliver relieved Thorson later in the game, but didn't fare much better. Oliver went six for 13, also throwing two interceptions.
Linebacker Anthony Walker ended his stellar season with nine more tackles, and one sack. He is definitely a good reason to follow the team next season, and I think a future NFL draft pick. The defense spent a lot of time on the field, and that usually means a lot of tackles. Seniors Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike both ended with double digits in that category.
There isn't much more to say about this game. When a team loses by 39 points, breaking it down play by play or quarter by quarter doesn't seem to help much in understanding what went wrong.