Defensive adjustment key to win
By Paul Fortenberry | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — Two Cincinnati drives into its game against Tennessee Saturday and it looked like the Vols’ defense was anything but stout. After giving up 139 yards and two touchdowns, Tennessee’s defense seemed in for a long day.
But defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s unit buckled down and came up with two fourth-and-one stops to help Tennessee build a big first-half lead, ending with a 45-23 Tennessee win.
“The difference on defense really (was) the three big stops, the two fourth-and-ones at midfield; giant plays that allowed us to pull away,” head coach Derek Dooley said.
Tennessee not only came up with big stops in the first half, but with the Vols leading 35-14 in the third quarter, Cincinnati drove the ball all the way to the Tennessee 1 and had first-and-goal from there. On the first two plays, Tennessee stuffed the run up the middle and on third-and-goal from the one, Prentiss Waggner deflected a Zach Collaros pass, forcing the Bearcats to attempt a field goal.
“That really helped out a lot. I thought our defense really bowed our backs and the push of the (defensive) line made it easy for the linebackers to make big plays and stop them,” senior linebacker Austin Johnson said. “That created a lot of momentum for us.”
According to senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson, the short yardage stops were big in helping the defense give up only nine points the rest of the day.
“It’s a great feeling. We go in there every week and talk about big stops and getting the small stuff done. When we go out there and stop them like that, it’s big. And I think we got points off of them, too, so it’s definitely big when you stop a team like that,” Jackson said.
WIDEOUT RECORDS: There was no mystery to what Tennessee’s game plan was minutes into the contest, which ended with 405 yards passing from quarterback Tyler Bray. As a result, wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers were part of setting a few Tennessee records Saturday.
Hunter, 10 catches for 156 yards, and Rogers, 10 for 100, became the only two receivers in Tennessee history to have 10 catches in a game together and also set the record for two receivers having back-to-back 100 yard outings.
Even with all the records broken, Rogers said it was just another day at the office.
“It was not easy but it was routine. We play at a fast tempo and hot-paced offense in practice. We play like we play in practice and it turns over into the game. We work hard in practice and make plays so when it comes game time, it is second hand. They are same plays you always run,” Rogers said.
BARTHOLOMEW: Junior fullback Ben Bartholomew, younger brother of former Vol fullback Will Bartholomew, saw the first start of his career on Saturday after learning earlier in the week it had become an open competition between him and sophomore Channing Fugate, who started the opener against Montana.
“It was Tuesday practice they put me in with the ones and they told me it would be a competition for the week and we’ll see what happens,” Bartholomew said.
In earning the start, Bartholomew caught a pass for eight yards and helped open holes for running back Tauren Poole,who recorded the seventh 100-yard rushing game of his career.
Bartholomew admitted he was taken aback at being given the starting nod.
“I was a little bit surprised, but I’m just very blessed to get the opportunity,” Bartholomew said. “I think I played well, but I also made a lot of mistakes. I can’t wait to watch film and correct them and get ready for next week.”