Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tennessee Vols carry momentum into Outback Bowl (w/video)

TAMPA — With its Outback Bowl matchup against Northwestern fast approaching, there is an elevated sense of confidence among Tennessee's players.

Riding a five-game win streak, the Volunteers come into Friday's game at Raymond James Stadium with momentum.

But they also have something else that has been lacking in recent seasons: Postseason experience.

For the first time since 2006-07 — when College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer was at the helm as coach — the Vols are playing in a bowl in back-to-back seasons. They defeated Iowa 45-28 in the Taxslayer Bowl last season to finish with their first winning record (7-6) since 2009 and earn their first bowl victory since the 2007 Outback.

Senior DB Brian Randolph, who enters second on the Vols with 67 tackles, said Sunday the team knows what to expect.

"I feel like it's actually easier," Randolph said. "Experience is always the best teacher. We've got a little experience, we know what to expect this year. We know how practice is going to be. We know what the schedule is going to be like. I feel like (this) year is going to be better for us."

Coach Butch Jones believes his team will reap the benefits of that mind-set on game day, but said there is room for improvement.

"This football team has been focused so much," he said. "I've challenged their maturity. We've challenged their leadership and, so far, they've responded.

"I like where we're at, but we still have a long way to go in this week of preparation."

D IS THE KEY: One of the main reasons Northwestern secured 10 victories for the first tie since 2012 was its dominance on defense.

Led by redshirt sophomore LB Anthony Walker (19.5 tackles for loss) and senior CB Nick VanHoose (three interceptions), the Wildcats rank third in Division I-A in passing efficiency defense (98.27) and 11th in total defense. Northwestern also gave up just five passing touchdowns in the regular season, the fewest in the nation.

"I think it was a combination of physicality up front and just an experienced defensive back corps," said senior DE Dean Lowry, who ranks among the top 10 in program history in career sacks (121/2).

"I think guys … really stepped up in the backfield and we just had guys that could come on."

THIS AND THAT: Both teams combined to consume more than 5,000 pounds of food during Saturday's welcome dinner at A La Carte Pavilion. The feast included 750 pounds of steak, 700 pounds of salad and 1,200 pounds of cheesecake. … The teams participated in a bowling competition at Splitsville at Channelside Bay Plaza on Sunday and will visit the children's wing of Tampa General Hospital today.

Tennessee Vols carry momentum into Outback Bowl (w/video) 12/27/15 [Last modified: Sunday, December 27, 2015 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Road to Atlanta: Tell us how you really feel, Jimbo

    College

    Topped out

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21:  Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) 775042495
  2. Journal: USF gets support on the road

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — Perhaps it was the chance to witness the first USF-Tulane game ever, or an opportunity to frolic in the French Quarter for a weekend. Or both.

    USF running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) stiff-arms Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson (17) on a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH111
  3. Joey Knight's takeaways from USF-Tulane

    College

    1. Saturday's triumph will do little to fortify USF's strength of schedule, but its strength-of-character quotient might have increased. On the road facing an eclectic offense, the Bulls built a huge lead, then made critical plays in the waning moments after some defensive lapses. In short, they survived. Isn't …

    South Florida defensive end Greg Reaves (41) reacts after a defensive stop against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH107
  4. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  5. Lightning journal: Tighter defense fuels hot start

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — See what happens when you keep the crease clean, limit the traffic in front of G Andrei Vasilevskiy and limit Grade A scoring chances?

    Yanni Gourde, right, gets a late first-period goal that follows a big save by Andrei Vasilevskiy.