KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee football team showed the two good sides of its offense Saturday night.
What second-year coach Derek Dooley will take from the 42-16 season-opening win over Montana, though, is the third and not-so-pretty side.
“It’s a good win — they all are, they’re all never easy,” Dooley said, “but there’s a lot of work to do. We need to make a big jump from game one to game two if we’re going to be competitive. We made a ton of mistakes, a lot of them from young guys. We’ve got to go look at the film and clean it up and show some improvement next week.”
The Volunteers scored the game’s first 28 points and never really were threatened by the overmanned Grizzlies, but with the five fumbles, poor running game and six penalties, there’s plenty for the Vols to correct with Cincinnati visiting this Saturday.
A thunderstorm delayed the start of Saturday’s game for 1 hour and 43 minutes, and the Vols needed a turnover after the Grizzlies forced a punt after three offensive plays and a sack of quarterback Tyler Bray. Anthony Anderson recovered Peter Nguyen’s muffed punt, and UT scored on the next play when Bray took a flea-flicker pitch after handing off to Tauren Poole, rolled to his right and hit Da’Rick Rogers for a 47-yard score.
UT’s next drive lasted just two plays longer, as Bray hit Justin Hunter for an 81-yard score as the Vols flashed back to the big offense they showed at the end of last season.
“We saw these holes when we were watching film,” Bray said.
The Vols’ next two scoring drives were closer to the offense’s character from training camp. They extended their lead with drives of 12 and 13 plays. Though they struggled running the football and averaging less than 3 yards per carry, UT was 10-of-17 on third downs.
“We can’t go deep every time,” Bray said. “Teams are going to start to key on that, so we’ve got the underneath routes. It was really good. We were running the ball, throwing the ball, it was balanced offense and we were just trying to finish.”
Bray finished 17-of-24 for 293 yards and three scores, but he was sacked three times. Hunter caught six passes for 146 yards and Rogers added 100 yards on five grabs.
Montana scored on an 80-yard pass play and a safety to cut its deficit to 28-9, but Art Evans answered with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown. Poole finished with 98 yards on 24 carries, and freshman Marlin Lane scored two touchdowns.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of mistakes,” Dooley said. “I’m pleased. It’s a good win — I’m not disappointed. I don’t want y’all to think that I am. That’s a good team and a good program, and we won by a pretty good margin. Every time it got a little hairy, we did something to get out of it.”
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 ...