Troy exploits Achilles’ Heel — the UT defense
By David Cobb | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Homecoming nearly turned into a home wrecking Saturday at Neyland Stadium as Troy exploited the UT defense for 721 yards, the most ever allowed by a Tennessee team, in a 55-48 Volunteer victory.
Troy (4-5) employed a two-quarterback system that operated an offense which shredded the Vols through the air and on the ground.
“We did everything on the sheet,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “And nothing really worked. Early in the game we got a couple of stops … and then everything went bad in the second and third.”
On the game opening possession, the Trojans marched 10 plays for a field goal, fueled by a 32 yard completion to Chris Williams from Corey Robinson, the pass happier of the two Trojan signal callers.
After a stint of offensive inadequacy that allowed UT to jump ahead 28-10, big play aided scoring drives — for touchdowns, not field goals — became a trend for Troy.
The Vols allowed nine plays of 25-plus yards, seven of them through the air, including Eric Thomas’s one handed grab from Robinson that covered 63 yards and gave Troy a 48-41 fourth quarter lead.
DUAL WR’s DO DAMAGE CONTROL: Luckily for Dooley, the Troy quarterbacks weren’t the only duo wreaking havoc.
Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter combined for 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns, fueling Tyler Bray’s school record 530 passing yards.
Hunter dropped a Bray bomb that would have been a touchdown on UT’s opening possession, which ended in Patterson’s lone scoring reception, but Hunter redeemed himself — three times over. Bray found the 6-foot-4 junior for three of his five passing touchdowns on strikes of 21, 40 and 46 yards, the last of which equaled the score at 48 with under three minutes to go.
It was also a Bray-to-Hunter hookup that set up the eventual game-clinching UT score.
“They’re two NFL caliber receivers,” Bray said. “You’ve just got to get them the ball and they’re going to make plays.”
Patterson’s marquee play was a 58-yard reception on which he danced his way around Trojan defenders to set up Michael Palardy’s go ahead field goal as the second quarter clock expired.
“They were just open,” Bray said. “Outside (defensive backs) were playing off, and giving them the shorter routes, and towards the end we were taking some shots down the field, and they were just getting open.”
Patterson was late emerging from the locker room after halftime after being administered an IV.
“I was pretty exhausted,” he said. “My mouth was dry like the whole time. I was just told to go in there and get an IV and be ready to play.”
GETTING IT DONE: The UT defense probably needed the IV more than Patterson, but it did hold the Trojans in the game’s final minutes to end UT’s four game losing skid.
After Hunter’s fourth quarter grab that equaled the score, Troy took over with 2:48 remaining. But the Trojans had exhausted their big play magic and were forced to punt.
Bray proceeded to march the offense on a 66-yard drive that was capped by Marlin Lane’s nine yard game-clinching run.
A desperation heave by Robinson towards the end zone fell short on the game’s final play.
“Every football traditionalist is rolling over in their grave right now,” Dooley said. “Not much to say other than we found a way to win, which is the most important thing, as bad as we were on defense, and we were really bad, we stopped them on the last two (possessions) … and that’s the reason we won it. At some point you’ve got to make a stop and it took us a while to do that. Great job finding a way to win.
Next week Tennessee hosts SEC newcomer Missouri at Neyland Stadium in a 12:21 p.m. kickoff that will be aired on SEC TV and shown locally on WVLT.