Oct. 1, 2011
BY JOSH PATE
Rogers exploded for 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns Saturday as the Vols beat Buffalo 41-10 at Neyland Stadium. It was a career day for Rogers, but most of all he was excited about answering the call from the offensive coaching staff.
"Really, the coaches had been telling me all week that a lot of plays would be coming my way, and when they would come, what would I do," Rogers said. "With Justin going down, I felt like I had to come back strong for the team."
He did. Saturday's game turned into a "how can I top this" afternoon for Rogers.
The sophomore quickly became quarterback Tyler Bray's go-to target. Rogers caught a 7-yard pass at the corner of the end zone for Tennessee's second score of the game to make it 14-0 in the first quarter.
On the first play of Tennessee's next offensive possession from its own 27, Bray found Rogers again. The connection went for 56 yards and flipped the field for the Vols, taking them to the Buffalo 17. The Vols ended up kicking a field goal to make it 17-7.
His biggest show came in the second quarter.
With Tennessee pinned at its own 3-yard line and facing a second-and-19, Tauren Poole rushed for 5 yards to give the Vols some breathing room. Then Bray went for the dagger.
Rogers was executing a crossing route when Bray found him open across midfield. Rogers hauled in the ball and turned up the sideline. He looked to be tackled by two Bulls in hot pursuit, but fellow receiver Zach Rogers intervened and laid a huge block to knock both Buffalo defenders out of the way.
Da'Rick Rogers continued on for a 58-yard gain to put the Vols on the 34.
"I was running across the field and I saw Zach inching up there to hit him. I was like, `He's going to kill him,' " Rogers said. "And he did."
The catch secured a career-high in receiving yards for Rogers.
Five plays later, Bray found Rogers once again for a 12-yard touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Rogers knew the receiving spotlight would shift toward him Saturday. Hunter garnered most of the attention in Tennessee's first two games, but his season-ending knee injury at Florida shoved Rogers out front as the Vols' top receiver. Rogers is OK with that, and Bray is, too.
"He's a hard guy to cover," Bray said. "He's a big, physical receiver. And you can't just worry about him."
Bray had 342 passing yards and spread it around. Tight end Mychal Rivera caught three passes for 38 yards, and freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett also caught three for 27 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Rogers caught two passes for 24 yards.
However, UT head coach Derek Dooley wants that supporting cast to elevate its performance like Rogers did.
"If Da'Rick doesn't catch for 180, somebody's going to have to make up for it," Dooley said. "We've got to get these yards. But 342 passing is a big number. I'd probably expect more out of Zach. But when a guy catches for 180, what are you going to do?"
The performance was Rogers' third 100-yard performance in four games this season.
"Da'Rick had a real good game," Dooley said. "We need him to have big games like that."