Defense stood tough for one half
By David Cobb | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — After allowing a school record 721 yards against Troy last week, the UT defense, which Dooley played a greater role on the practice field and in the meeting rooms in this week, appeared revitalized in the first half Saturday.
The Tigers had just 64 yards in the opening two quarters as the Vols held Missouri quarterback James Franklin to two completions.
But it didn’t last.
On the first play of the third quarter, Tiger tailback Kendial Lawrence gashed the Vol defense for a 77-yard score.
The play was indicative of what would follow as Missouri amassed a combined 390 yards in the second half and overtime.
“The first half we looked real good,” said UT defensive back Prentiss Waggner, who picked off a Franklin pass to end a Mizzou drive in the second quarter. “We didn’t know the stats or anything like that, but to hold those guys to 64 yards is big. We’ve just got to make it four quarters and hold them to the same in the second half.”
While clinging to a 28-21 lead with under a minute to play, the Vol defense had a chance to verify its improvement and score a game-clinching stop. But on fourth-and-12, Franklin found Dorial Green-Beckham wide open in the end zone to tie the game.
“Well that was a hard one,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said after the game. “We had a lot of opportunities to win the game — a lot. And in all phases.”
CHARRED CHANCES: Despite the continued defensive woes, UT missed its share of opportunities to cement its first SEC victory of the year on the offensive side of the ball.
After Green-Beckham’s game tying reception, UT took over at its own 39 with 43 seconds left and a pair of timeouts. Bray threw incomplete on the drive’s first play. On second down, a middle of the field completion went for no gain, at which point Dooley opted to allow the game clock to expire and send the game to overtime.
“I was (trying to score) the first two plays,” Dooley said. “But we got zero yards and then we had 30 seconds left and they had a timeout and I didn’t want to miss the third and ten and have to punt and all things that could happen there with giving them the ball back.”
In the third overtime, the Vols had a chance to clinch the game after Justin Hunter’s 13 yard touchdown reception tied the score at 48. On the mandatory two-point conversion attempt, a pressured Bray found Marlin Lane who was stuffed before he could turn around to sniff the end zone.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY: Dooley contradicted his regulation-ending decision in the second overtime while faced with a fourth-and-3 from the 5.
Instead of kicking a 22 yard field goal to go ahead by three and give the Tigers a chance to win, UT got creative.
Tyler Drummer, a 6-foot-1, 172 pound holder, took the snap but instead of putting the ball on the ground for Michael Palardy to kick, he picked it up and ran it to the end zone for a Tennessee score.
Drummer is a junior transfer from University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky and a Powell High School graduate. He’s listed as a wide receiver in the UT media guide.
“They overload one side of the ball,” Drummer said. “And when they put four guys on that same side of the ball it’s just wide open.
“It would have been a great play if we could have won,” Drummer said. “We just came up short.”
The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) will travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt Saturday.
“We’ve got no other options but to go try and beat Vanderbilt,” Dooley said.
“That’s all we can do.”