No way to resist Bray
By Leonard Butts | (email@example.com)
After South Carolina State quarterback Richard Cue threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-6 victory over Georgia State last week, you had to figure the Panthers were in for another bashing at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Tennessee’s passing game has been its major asset during Derek Dooley’s brief tenure as head coach, and Georgia State’s vulnerability was apparent on the field, on film and in the stat book.
Volunteer quarterback Tyler Bray didn’t disappoint. The Panthers and coach Bill Curry knew it was coming, but there was little they could do about it.
Bray was a super-efficient 18 of 20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns before exiting with a little less than five minutes to play in the third quarter and a 41-6 lead.
The four TD passes — two for 19 yards each, one for 25 and one for 11 — came in the midst of 13 consecutive completions in the contest, which put him in the company of Casey Clausen and Jeff Francis for the third longest streak among UT quarterbacks.
“It helps when you have a great offensive line,” Bray said.
For the second week in a row, Bray shared the ball among several receivers, but under very little pressure this time around, he was able to go more often to his most reliable targets — Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mychal Rivera.
Running free in the Panther secondary, Hunter’s three touchdown receptions made him the ninth UT receiver in the program with three in a single game. Donte Stallworth did it twice in his college career.
“There was a lot of gifts out there today,” Hunter said of the GSU defense, which tried to flex but more often broke.
Dooley, however, cautioned that Hunter won’t be so open next week against the Florida defense, adding that the junior still has some “improving to do” after coming off a season-ending knee injury last year.
Clearly, things could have been a lot worse for Georgia State’s secondary had the Vols not continued their successful effort in reviving their running game. After rushing for 191 yards in the season-opening win over the Wolfpack, the Vols gathered 184 yards on the ground against the Panthers.
Although Dooley was not doing cartwheels over the running game because of ongoing problems in short-yardage situations, the Vols have created a consistency over two games that was lacking last season.
That should help in presenting a balanced attack next week against a Gator team that is still trying to find itself offensively but gained confidence with an SEC win over Texas A&M while the Vols were demolishing Georgia State.
Dr. Leonard Butts is sports editor emeritus and currently tutoring writing at Pellissippi State.