Oct. 1, 2011
(1-4, 0-1 MAC)
(3-1, 0-1 SEC)
BY DREW EDWARDS
KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's week of rest didn't derail its offense.
Quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Da'Rick Rogers kept the SEC's best passing offense on track, and the Vols gained 531 yards of total offense in a 41-10 victory over Buffalo on Saturday in front of 87,758 at Neyland Stadium.
"Now we turn our attention to what lies ahead," UT coach Derek Dooley said.
That's a tough stretch of conference games beginning next week at home against Georgia, which defeated Mississippi State 24-10 on Saturday to improve to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
The Bulldogs will certainly present a tougher test than Buffalo, which mustered only 264 yards of total offense and 10 points in its first trip to Knoxville.
Tennessee (3-1) opened a quick 14-0 lead after a 20-yard touchdown run by receiver Rajion Neal and a 7-yard pass to Rogers.
Buffalo (1-4) scored its lone touchdown when quarterback Chazz Anderson broke free on a 68-yard touchdown run. The Bulls created a little suspense on the ensuing kickoff, which the Vols mishandled and gave Buffalo possession at the UT 21.
Tennessee's defense held strong, and Peter Fardon missed a 44-yard field goal.
From there, the Vols closed the half with 17 unanswered points and led 31-7.
Tennessee's second half wasn't nearly as productive, but all told the Vols put together a solid day's work in their last non-conference game until Nov. 5 against Middle Tennessee.
"It felt pretty good when you get going," offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "We could have done a lot better, but it felt pretty good."
That applied to a few individuals as well.
Tauren Poole ran for 101 and averaged 5.9 yards per carry, a solid performance after the Vols' struggles on the ground at Florida.
And Rogers, who is now Tennessee's biggest threat at receiver with Justin Hunter out for the season with a torn ACL, had a career day.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore had seven catches for a career-high 180 yards with two touchdowns. True freshman DeAnthony Arnett, who led the Vols in receiving at Florida, also added two more touchdowns.
Those two helped make up for Hunter's absence, said Bray, who threw for 342 yards and completed 21 of his 30 passes.
"You can't focus your offense around one guy," Bray said. "(Hunter's a) great kid, great ballplayer, but there's still 10 other guys on the field who have to step up, and they did that today."
Another true freshman, Knoxville native Devrin Young, made a major impact in his first action this season. Young returned a punt 43 yards to set up the Vols' first touchdown, and he took the opening kickoff of the second half 34 yards to the UT 42.
Those special teams highlights offset a few major miscues -- and one unusual play -- in the kicking game.
In addition to a fumbled kickoff in the first half, Young fumbled a kick in the fourth quarter. Buffalo blocked a Tennessee punt in the closing minutes as well, but UT punter Matt Darr recovered the ball and advanced it for a first down.
That play in particular seemed to rankle Dooley after the game, especially considering Buffalo was setting up for the return and not going for the block.
"It's embarrassing," Dooley said. "It's ridiculous. We didn't even block the guy. It was jut a guy choosing not to do what he's coached to do. It wasn't hard. (My son) JT could have handled that one."
Tennessee still surrendered a couple of costly plays, most notably Anderson's big run in the first quarter.
"We have to eliminate big plays," said linebacker Austin Johnson, who had six tackles, one shy of Curt Maggitt's team-high seven. "We've got to eliminate those. It's our responsibility as players. It takes all 11 of us doing our jobs to stop those plays."
The Vols now have step back into conference play against Georgia. And despite the fact that UT has now won three of its first four games, Dooley still isn't sure what to make of his team.
"I still don't know what we are," Dooley said. "Here's what I do know: We've had three teams come in here, and we played pretty good and took care of them. We went down to the Swamp and gutted it out for four quarters and didn't play our best.
"We'll see how we do next week."