Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray took some criticism Monday from his coach about his no-show for the media after Saturday's loss and about being "too loose" with the football, and Bray himself said he's making too many mistakes.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
KNOXVILLE -- Tyler Bray said no words Saturday night after his poor performance in Tennessee's 31-point loss to top-ranked Alabama.
The Volunteers' coach had plenty of strong ones for his quarterback Monday.
Derek Dooley minced little in sending a public message to Bray, who skipped out on talking to the media following a 13-of-27 passing performance headlined by two badly thrown interceptions.
"I was very disappointed, and I told him that," Tennessee's third-year coach said of Bray's postgame decision at his weekly Monday news conference. "I have no defense for that kind of behavior. He's the quarterback, and there's a level of responsibility you have to the team and to the fans and to the media.
"If you don't like it, don't play quarterback. That's how it is, and I told him that. That's unacceptable in our program."
The coach's voice grew sterner as he finished his answer.
"Man up, that's what you have to do," Dooley continued. "That's life. You can't have it both ways. I told the team that. Can't get upset at the fans because they're angry. What do you want them to be, happy?
"They all want to get cheered, but nobody wants the criticism when you don't perform. That's not how life is. Nothing wrong with the fans."
Nearly half an hour earlier, after Tennessee's practice Monday morning, Bray, who normally does interviews on Tuesdays, talked about his performance and his quick postgame exit from the Vols' locker room.
"I was mad," he said. "I should have owned up to it and manned up and faced the consequences."
Bray said his third-quarter interception by Alabama safety Robert Lester needed a quicker and more accurate throw to an open Alton "Pig" Howard in the Vols' end zone. On his second-quarter interception by linebacker C.J. Mosley, Bray said he began to throw and tried to pull the ball back because Justin Hunter had yet to come out of his break on a deep crossing route.
In Tennessee's four Southeastern Conference losses this season, Bray has thrown eight interceptions and lost one fumble. That's all but one of the Vols' 10 turnovers and a large reason why they're minus-6 in turnover margin in those four games. It's a trend the junior needs to break against 17th-ranked South Carolina's stout defense Saturday.
Dooley suggested Monday that Bray is now on a shorter leash.
"If he's loose with the ball, he's coming out of the game, and we're going to play [Justin] Worley," Dooley said. "I told him that. He's too loose with the football, and he's been too loose.
"That's the way it is. We can't beat these teams turning the ball over, and there's going to be inevitable turnovers in a game. When there is one, make them have made a great play to get it, not serve it up to them, which is what we do."
Sophomore Worley started three games when Bray was injured and backup Matt Simms was ineffective a season ago, and he replaced Bray with 10 minutes left in the game against the Crimson Tide. Dooley has said multiple times since the preseason that the Vols have "all the confidence in the world" in the backup.
Bray said his struggles against Alabama were him simply rushing things.
"I felt like I was a little amped up [and] wasn't being myself," he said. "I was rushing through my reads instead of being patient. The line blocked great for me all night, and instead of me being patient, I rushed through it."
Bray will make his 20th career start against the Gamecocks in Columbia still looking for his first signature SEC win. It's where his career essentially started two years ago, when Bray replaced Simms at halftime and bounced back from a first-play pick-six to lead the Vols back from a two-touchdown deficit to a fourth-quarter tie. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound California native has been Tennessee's starter since then, but his recent skid has continued to draw plenty of criticism.
Bray understands the Vols need him to play well and knows his recent rash of mistakes is a problem he needs to solve.
"I think that's with every team's quarterback," he said. "The quarterback has the ball in his hands every play, so if he's throwing it good, the team's going to play good. If he's throwing it bad, the team's going to play bad.
"The more you know, you feel like the less mistakes you should make. When you're young, you're going to make mistakes just because you haven't played the game yet. I've been here for three years now, and I shouldn't be making as many mistakes as I am."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
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 ...