KNOXVILLE -- Buffalo receiver Saron Hood burst through Tennessee's punt-protection unit and blocked Matt Darr's kick with time winding down in the fourth quarter.
"It was embarrassing," Volunteers coach Derek Dooley said. "They rush one guy. We just release. It was lazy."
But Darr scooped up the ball and ran 30 yards for a first down.
That's the type of easy afternoon the Vols had Saturday in a 41-10 nonconference win at Neyland Stadium.
It might be the last such afternoon for a while.
"We did what we needed to do," Dooley said. "It was a good win. This team had played every team they had played close, and they didn't today. Now we turn our attention to what lies ahead."
Georgia visits Knoxville this Saturday night on a three-game winning streak. Then the Vols face top-ranked LSU, third-ranked Alabama and 10th-ranked South Carolina.
Tennessee (3-1) will carry some good feelings into that stretch, though.
Even without favorite target Justin Hunter, who's out for the year with a knee injury, sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray completed 21 of 30 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. Da'Rick Rogers did the damage early, racking up 154 yards and two touchdown catches on six grabs in the first half and finishing with 180 yards on seven catches.
"Really that's what the coaches have been telling me all week," said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver from Calhoun, Ga. "[They've been] saying they have a lot of plays for me. 'You've got to step and we're going to throw it to you. What are you going to do?' With Justin going down, I feel like I had to come back strong for the team, and I feel like that's what I did today."
Rogers had a 56-yard grab on a deep throw and a 58-yard catch-and-run.
"We need him to have games like that," Dooley said. "He caught some big third downs. When a guy catches for 180, what do you do?"
Seven other receivers caught passes, including freshman DeAnthony Arnett, who had eight catches in the loss to Florida and grabbed two touchdown throws Saturday.
"[Rogers is] a hard guy to cover," Bray said. "He's a big, physical receiver and you can't just worry about him. You can't focus your offense around one guy. [Hunter's a ] great kid, great ballplayer, but we still have 10 other ballplayers on the field that have to step up and play, and they did today."
Rajion Neal, moved from tailback to receiver during preseason training camp, caught a 14-yard pass and scored on a 20-yard reverse on UT's opening drive.
"We used a lot of different guys, especially early on," Dooley said. "They did what we asked them to do. If Da'Rick can't catch for 180, then someone has to make up for it. We have to get these yards."
Tauren Poole started strong, running for 40 yards on his first three carries and finishing with 101 yards on 17 rushes. UT's running attack was last in the Southeastern Conference and 112th nationally coming in, but the Vols finished with 187 yards rushing.
Poole had just 18 yards on nine carries in the loss to the Gators after hurting his back on his first carry.
"I wanted it bad, and I continue to want it because the running game's still not where it needs to be," the senior said. "I've got to continue to get better as a running back, and we've got to continue to get better as a running team so Bray can throw the ball anywhere that he wants to."
Outside of quarterback Chazz Anderson's 68-yard first-quarter touchdown gallop and a 40-yard completion, UT held Buffalo to 156 yards of offense and made three sacks.
"We really have to eliminate big plays -- that's our biggest thing," said Vols middle linebacker Austin Johnson, who totaled six tackles. "We've let up a lot of 25-plus [yardage] plays, and we've got to eliminate those. It's our responsibility as the players because we're supposed to be lined up and make the tackles.
"It takes all 11 of us doing our jobs to stop those plays. As long as we cut out those, just got to keep working at it because we've got a tough road ahead of us."
Certainly a tougher road than it was Saturday.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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