published Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Vols' 'frustrated' Bray looks forward

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) throws to a receiver in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) throws to a receiver in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Photo by Associated Press.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray never has been the type to go back and watch the video from season-ending games.

He decided the last 20 minutes of the Volunteers' loss to Florida deserved similar treatment.

Bray said after Tennessee's indoor practice Tuesday morning that he watched only the first half of a game the Vols led 20-13 before collapsing in the game's final 20 minutes.

"That wasn't our team," Bray said.

Coach Derek Dooley spoke of the frustration that permeated the play of Bray and the rest of the team from the "shock" of the Gators' 21-point onslaught. Tennessee was in position to give Bray his first signature win against a quality Southeastern Conference opponent before the wheels came off.

He completed just one of his 10 fourth-quarter passes.

The Vols got a mix of good and bad from their quarterback in building their lead. For every tight throw and big completion, there seemed to be a bad decision, from forcing a pass into coverage or the costly intentional grounding that halted Tennessee's chance to extend its lead. Once that frustration set in, Bray began to press.

"There's got to be a level of acknowledgment that you're a little affected by events that are out of your control," Dooley said Monday. "I think it's fair to say that happened when we were down 14 because it happened so quickly. That's a big step Tyler needs to take.

"I think the unfair thing is to say he doesn't care, and it's not fair to say he shuts it down. He doesn't, but when he gets frustrated and things that are out of his control start bothering him, he doesn't perform as well. He knows that, and he'll grow from it and learn from it."

The true test of Bray's ability to learn lessons won't come this week, as Tennessee hosts Akron before beginning the defining stretch of its season. Bray admitted his frustration forced him into "trying to make a play that's not there," and for a guy who didn't watch the game tape, he knew his fourth-quarter stat line.

He understands his position requires him to be a leader and acknowledges he stills has developing to do.

"They kept scoring," Bray said. "I get frustrated. Anybody's going to get down and feel like they've got to make that play.

"You've just got to make a play. You go from throwing bombs and running backs running great and linemen blocking great to no one's doing anything great. It can get frustrating."

To be fair, the Vols were close to getting themselves out of that funk. Cordarrelle Patterson couldn't come up with a makable catch on a deep ball he tried to grab with one hand. Justin Hunter dropped a first-down pass on third down that hit him right in the numbers.

The Vols are moving on, and Dooley said Bray was "really great" in Tuesday's practice despite not feeling well. Dooley cited studies that show NFL quarterbacks don't play their best football until their sixth or seventh year in the league. He mentioned it Monday and said Tuesday he gave Bray that information.

"Up to that point," Dooley said, "there's a lot of mistakes, there's a lot of highs [and] there's some great plays. There's tremendous criticism, and there's not any quarterback out there who hadn't gone through that. Tyler's made some great strides, but he's still journeying, learning how to be a complete quarterback.

"He wants to be, and I think he can be, and I think he will be. He's ready to get in that situation again and respond a little better than he did. I know he is."

The perception after Saturday, as Dooley alluded to Monday, is that Bray doesn't care. Avoiding that kind of criticism and handling such scrutiny also probably is part of being a complete quarterback, and Bray never has gotten caught up in any outside perception positive or negative. Dooley equated playing quarterback to his own job in that sense.

"It's one step removed from what my position is," he said. "When you're the head coach, you get all this praise when everything's good, and then when things go bad you're a disaster. That's just part of it.

"That's why what you think about it is so important. You've got to answer to yourself in the mirror, and you have to answer to your teammates. If you can feel good about looking in the mirror and what my teammates are saying about me, then you're going to see improvement and you'll have a little peace in your life."

Bray's teammates likely understand his frustration since they were right there with him.

"We could just tell he wanted it so bad that it kind of got the best of him," tailback Rajion Neal said. "I feel it did that to a lot of us. I feel that hunger to win just really took over and had a lot of guys frustrated when things didn't go our way.

"We've got confidence in [Bray]. He knows we're behind him and believe in everything he does. He took shots and tried to press things that really wasn't there, but it was just the competitive nature and the [will] to want to win."

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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