Tyler Bray sees signs of improvement for Vols

Tyler Bray sees signs of improvement for Vols

September 30th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports College08football

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray prepares to pass.

Photo by Patrick Smith /Times Free Press.

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ATHENS. Ga. - Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray was the last Volunteer to meet with the media Saturday night following the 51-44 loss to Georgia.

Dressed in a black suit and purple shirt, he slumped into a chair in the corner of the humid, un-air-conditioned visitors' interview room and tried to make sense of his team's loss and his three turnovers in the final quarter.

"I tried to do too much," he said of his two late interceptions and a fumble in the game's final six minutes. "I don't need to win it on my own. I have to let the team win it."

UT coach Derek Dooley acknowledged that that's one of Bray's biggest struggles as he matures.

"He was trying to make a play [on the turnovers], and that's not when he performs well," Dooley said. "But he'll learn from this and he'll be better next time."

It's not as if Bray was awful this night. He completed 24 of 45 passes for two touchdowns, 281 yards and three interceptions. By comparison, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray hit 19-of-25 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which produced UT's first TD.

"Tyler didn't have his head down tonight," said wideout Justin Hunter, who caught three passes for 46 yards. "He kept telling us we could win. He was in the game the whole way."

It isn't easy. For all his career stats -- 49 TD throws, 59 percent completion rate and nearly 5,500 passing yards -- Bray often has missed the biggest UT games due to injury or (during his freshman year) the coach's decision not to play him.

That may explain his fumble with 1:22 to play and the Vols on the UGA 32, a tying touchdown in sight.

"I know better than to do that. You have to protect the ball first," said Bray, who fumbled while scrambling forward.

"I had the ball back," he said. "Then someone jumped on me and took it away."

What should be rewarding for Vols fans is what Bray said Dooley intended to do if UT scored.

"If we scored, we were going for the win," said the quarterback, referring to Dooley's apparent desire to go for a two-point conversion rather than kicking an extra point and heading to overtime.

"On the road against the No. 5 team in the country, we wanted to try to win it right there."

Of course, as Bray also noted with a rueful grin, "You have to score a touchown before you can go for two."

But that doesn't mean Bray believes all is lost, just because the Vols are now 0-2 in the SEC.

"We might have given up before," he said. "But we grew up a lot tonight."

None, perhaps, more than the quarterback.