Nov. 12, 2011
(4-6, 0-6 SEC)
(9-1, 5-1 SEC)
BY DREW EDWARDS
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Tennessee's SEC struggles continued against No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday night.
The Razorbacks leveraged big plays to take a commanding 28-point third-quarter lead and ran away with a 49-7 victory at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"When you don't answer the bell, it wears on you," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "We had our chances."
Wide receiver Joe Adams and running back Dennis Johnson did most of the damage for Arkansas.
Adams came through with the night's signature play in the second quarter -- and one perhaps emblematic of what went wrong in Tennessee's third game against a top 10 from the SEC West this season.
Leading 7-0, Adams fielded a low punt from Matt Darr, backtracked nearly 15 yards, broke six tackles and outran the rest of UT's coverage team down the right sideline for a 60-yard touchdown.
It was Adams' third punt return touchdown this season, and the Hogs' FBS-best fifth special teams touchdown.
For Tennessee, though, it was another instance of missed tackles and a missed opportunity to either make or prevent a big play.
"It hurts," receiver Rajion Neal said, "because we're so close but so far away."
Arkansas struck again on a 71-yard run by Dennis Johnson, who broke through the middle of the field and ran untouched the final 40 yards to give the Razorbacks a 21-0 lead with 11:25 left in the second quarter.
The Vols, who fell to 0-6 in SEC play for the first time in school history and 4-6 overall, answered with their best possession of the game. Neal caught a 50-yard pass from Justin Worley to set up an 11-yard touchdown run that made the score 21-7.
After stopping Arkansas on its next possession, Tennessee drove 72 yards to the Arkansas 5-yard line. But facing pressure on third down, Worley looked to the end zone -- only to find safety Tremain Thomas in his way.
"DeAnthony (Arnett) ran a great route," Worley said. "The safety made a great play."
The Hogs scored on their second possession of the second half, taking a 28-7 lead on a 15-yard run by Johnson, who finished with a game-high 97 yards on just 11 carries.
The real dagger came after the Vols' next drive stalled near midfield, and Worley threw incomplete for Arnett on fourth-and-1 from the UT 40-yard line.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson hit Adams with a 40-yard strike for a touchdown on the very next play, and Tennessee never threatened after that.
"We had lot of mistakes," defensive tackle Maurice Couch said. "They put up points on our mistakes."
That, too, has become an all-to-familiar feeling for the Vols.
The Razorbacks outscored Tennessee 28-0 after halftime, extending UT's uncanny second-half struggles in SEC play.
For the season, Tennessee has been outscored 118-22 in the final 30 minutes against conference opponents. Three of those teams have been ranked in the top 10, and all but one (Georgia) was ranked at the time they played the Vols.
It's been a difficult stretch for the Vols, who have lost five of their last six after starting the season 3-1.
"We're getting a lot of scars this year," Dooley said. "It's like we're in an advanced class of beat-down learning."
Tennessee now must rally off the mat if it's going to earn a bowl berth. That begins Saturday night against Vanderbilt (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.), which is fighting for a postseason spot as well.
One more loss, and the Vols will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2008.
"This is the season for us," said senior linebacker Austin Johnson. "We've got our backs against the wall. We've got homefield advantage (against Vanderbilt), and I know our fans are going to come out and support us."