published Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Vols rally to win shootout with Troy, 55-48

Tennessee's Tyler Bray passes Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
Tennessee's Tyler Bray passes Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — The quarterback threw for 530 yards and five touchdowns.

The two star receivers combined for 400 yards and four touchdowns.

Even the tailback broke the 100-yard mark.

Tennessee needed every one of those record-setting performances.

The Volunteers allowed Troy to run up and down the field and pile up 721 yards of offense but overcame a program-worst defensive performance with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a wild 55-48 win Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

"Not much to say other than we found a way to win, which is the most important thing as bad as we were on defense," third-year Vols coach Derek Dooley. "And we were really bad."

The previous record for most yards allowed was 695 in Tennessee's win at Kentucky in 1997. The Vols' 718-yard afternoon on offense Saturday broke the school record of 695 set in that same game. The Trojans ran 99 plays, threw for 496 yards with two quarterbacks, ran for 225 yards and had 40 points and 500 yards after three quarters.

"Nobody ever wants to be known for the defense that gave up the most yards," linebacker Curt Maggitt said. "That's not Tennessee defense. It is embarrassing, but we came up with the win.

"We know what each other can do, and we know what our defense is capable of. That's just embarrassing. We didn't play well at all."

"Far from a win, for me," added linebacker A.J. Johnson. "We could have played better. Gave up too much, but on the scoreboard we got the win. That's a good thing, that we came out 1-0, but it was unacceptable."

Troy finished with 10 plays of 20 or more yards, the last of which, receiver Eric Thomas' one-handed touchdown catch-and-run, and ensuing two-point conversion put the Trojans ahead 48-41 with three minutes remaining before quarterback Tyler Bray rallied the Vols.

The junior hit Justin Hunter for 46 yards to tie the game, and after the Vols' defense actually did get a stop, the two connected again for 24 yards to set up the winning touchdown.

"We did something we really have never done, which is we gritted it out in the fourth quarter," Dooley said. "We went on a scoring drive in the fourth quarter, and that's a positive. It's something that Tyler hasn't done."

Troy managed just 10 points on its first four possessions while the Vols scored four consecutive touchdowns and built a 28-10 second-quarter lead. The Trojans lined up to kick a field goal when the Vols called a timeout for having 12 players on the field, elected to go for it and converted it. It started a stretch in which Troy scored 30 points in five possessions.

The Trojans rolled up 389 yards of offense in the second and third quarters and 221 in the final frame and did whatever they wanted, as short passes, deep passes and even simple draw plays all worked to near perfection.

"We did everything on the sheet, and nothing really worked," Dooley said. "It's a bad, bad, bad defense, man. Just didn't really have an answer for anything.

"When you've got two up-tempo teams going, man, that's what these numbers look like when neither team can stop them. You see it over the country, a lot of these kind of games. Certainly not anything Tennessee's used to."

Tennessee's defense did come up with some timely stops. The Vols stuffed a fourth-down try when Troy needed an inch and forced two punts in the fourth quarter. The Trojans scored just once on their final five possessions, and quarterback Corey Robinson's final desperation heave never came close to reaching the end zone as time expired.

"Any time you get a win, you've got to be happy," Vols safety Byron Moore said. "It's not easy, and you can't expect it to be easy. However we've got to get it, we've got to do whatever it takes."

It took a record-setting day from Tennessee's offense, which missed plenty of opportunities of its own. Hunter dropped what would have been a touchdown on the Vols' first snap, and Vincent Dallas dropped another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Michael Palardy missed a 39-yard field goal, and freshman Alton "Pig" Howard fumbled inside Troy's 5-yard line.

"No," Bray replied bluntly when asked if he enjoyed playing in games where his offense must score on every series. "I don't think anybody does. It's a lot of stress, not only on us but the offensive coordinator, too."

Tennessee's offense was third and fourth in the SEC in yards and points entering the game.

"I feel like they've been saving us a lot," Maggitt said. "If they weren't scoring as much, the games would have been looking a lot worse than they have been. We owe a lot to them."

about Patrick Brown...

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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