Young players getting a head start on next season is one of the most common topics during bowl preparation, but the game itself is for seniors first and foremost. The Huskers didn’t get the 10th win they were hoping for against Tennessee, but senior wide receiver Brandon Reilly capped his career with a terrific performance with four catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Trailing 14-0 late in the first half, the Huskers were in trouble of letting the game slip away. They needed a score. Senior tight end Cethan Carter got the Huskers off to a great start with a 33-yard catch from senor quarterback Ryker Fyfe then followed it up with a 9-yard run on the next play.
On first and 10 from the 38-yard line, the Huskers decided to take a shot down field. Fyfe had Reilly isolated against Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley down the right sideline. Moseley was in good position, running side by side with Reilly, but Fyfe trusted his fellow walk-on turned scholarship player and let it fly.
The throw was an absolute dime, one of the best of Fyfe’s career as a Husker, and Reilly dived forward just as the ball arrived to create the separation needed to make the catch. He secured the ball and fill into the end zone to cut the Huskers’ deficit in half with less than two minutes to play before halftime..
“I told him before the game, if you get one-on-one, I’m going to get you the ball and hopefully get one touchdown,” Fyfe said. “He had two today, so good for him.”
The touchdown was the first of the season for Reilly who missed a couple games and was limited in others because of a suspension and injury problems. He finished with 21 catches for 412 yards this season, roughly half of what he produced during his breakout junior campaign.
Reilly went on to make another spectacular leaping catch in the corner of the end zone late in the third quarter to pull Nebraska within 10 at 24-14 and give the Huskers a chance to make a run at catching the Volunteers. It didn’t happen, but the seniors did get to hook up for a couple of big plays one last time as Huskers, and the bond that the seniors share is what Reilly said he’ll take away most form his career.
“I’d say probably just the bond the senior class has,” Reilly said. “We’ve been through a lot. A lot of us walked on together. It’s those friendships that last a lifetime, and that’s what I’m going to hold onto most about this journey.”
The Lincoln Southwest product had the best performance of his senior season in his last game as a Husker and that is why Brandon Reilly’s 38-yard touchdown catch is the final play of the game for the 2016 season.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.