UT's running game catches up
By Darren Dunlap | (email@example.com)
The Tennessee running game picked up steam and the passing game soared.
Quarterback Tyler Bray shredded the Cincinnati defense at Neyland Stadium with a career game of 405 yards passing and five touchdowns, including his first rushing score in the Vols’ 45-23 win.
“Our passing game was on all cylinders,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “Tauren Poole ran a lot better. A lot of improvement in that area.”
Bray’s favorite targets on Saturday were receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. Hunter finished with 156 yards on 10 catches and one TD. Rogers caught the ball for 100 yards with the same number of catches, and both surpassed 100 yards receiving in a game for the second week.
None of those numbers surprised Bray.
“Nothing surprises me about those two guys,” said Bray, a sophomore. “They’re great receivers.”
Bray also connected with four other receivers, including Zach Rogers for a touchdown late in the game.
Poole made three catches for 30 yards and also had 107 yards rushing with an average of 4.8 yards a carry. Dooley said Poole ran well, but the running game overall needs work, he indicated. Tennessee rushed for 141 yards total. The Vols fumbled twice in the backfield with one that set up Cincinnati’s last touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Marlin (Lane) put the ball on the ground,” Dooley said. “Rajion (Neal) put the ball on the ground. We still don’t have what we need behind (Poole).”
Tight end Ben Bartholomew said that the running game did improve this week. Receivers put more blocks on the defensive secondary, which helped. He credited the offensive line for the way it handled an active Bearcat defense that blitzed frequently.
“I thought the offensive line did a very good job of picking up on that,” Bartholomew said.
The Vols’ two defensive stops on fourth-and-one situations also gave Tennessee good field position on the visitors’ 40-yard line.
“People don’t realize how big those are,” Dooley said. “It’s not just stops. It’s field position.”
Dooley called Saturday’s game “a good win,” but pointed out next week’s game will be harder. The Vols travel to The Swamp in Florida for their SEC opener. Tennessee’s sophomore quarterback, no stranger to away games, faces his greatest challenge of the season.
“He’s played two really good games,” Dooley said. “But next week we’re going to play probably one of the best teams in the country, with one of the best defenses in the country.”