Derek Dooley's gamble on punt nets return

Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy is congratulated by quarterback Matt Simms after a successful fake punt gained a first down against Kentucky at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy is congratulated by quarterback Matt Simms after a successful fake punt gained a first down against Kentucky at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky game recap

Derek Dooley’s gutsy gamble ultimately didn’t result in points.

But the successful fake punt the Tennessee coach called in the third quarter of the Vols’ 24-14 win over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium was nowhere close to being a total waste.

“Two things happened,” Dooley said. “(Kentucky) started the next drive on the 20, so we changed field position; and we ate up clock to let the defense recover (and) adjust.

“So I think even though we didn’t get points out of it, it helped.”

The Wildcats appeared to have seized some momentum in the second half after a 76-yard, game-tying touchdown drive and were set to get the ball back after three incompletions by UT quarterback Tyler Bray.

On fourth-and-10 from the UT 24, freshman Michael Palardy, who took over the full-time punting duties for the first time this season with Chad Cunningham’s hand injury, took off for a 16-yard gain.

“That series, when it was second-and-10 I started thinking about it if we didn’t get a first down,” Dooley said. “We (had) to do something.”

Palardy had three options on the play: a pass to Tyler Wolf, a run or a rugby-style punt. Kentucky’s safety covered Wolf, leaving a lane for Palardy.

“It had worked all week throughout practice, I would say 95 percent of the time,” Palardy said. “If everyone does their job, the play is executed perfectly. (Linebacker) Nick Reveiz is my lead blocker and I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”

Though the drive ended on Bray’s interception in the end zone, it was UT’s second successful fake punt for this season. Cunningham ran 25 yards for a first down against South Carolina.

“Every time I call that stuff, I let it slip out of my mouth, and then I go, ‘Why did I do that? Why did I do that? Why did I do that? Why did I do that? Oh good, I’m glad I did it,’” Dooley said rocking back and forth in his chair.

“That’s the life of the coach. It works, so you look good, and if it didn’t work, they’d probably gone up on us and we’d be in here wondering why we did that.”

“I think Coach Dooley’s calls have earned a lot of respect from our players,” Palardy said. “A lot of people have trust and have faith in me that I’m going to run it, have faith in the coaches that they’re going to make the right call and have faith in themselves for everything being executed well.”

Ruined Return: Freshman receiver Da’Rick Rogers ripped off a 78-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff, though that big special-teams play also didn’t lead to points after Daniel Lincoln yanked his 28-yard field-goal try wide left for his first miss of the season.

“When I turned the corner I thought I was gone, but when I got to about the 20-yard line my legs gave out on me,” Rogers said. “I don’t know if I got so excited that my body just shut down, I don’t know what happened.

“You always want to come out score points after a big return like that, but we have a pretty strong offense. We’re getting better, we’re young and we can score later on in the game.”

Good Hands, Coach: Dooley showed he hasn’t lost his skills from his playing days as a receiver at Virginia when he made two sideline grabs on errant Bray throws.

“It’s called bad throws,” Dooley quipped. “I’m just showing you it’s not hard to catch the football. I’m going to go catch some punts next just to show ’em.”

UT didn’t allow its season-long woes with catching punts to be a factor —the Vols fielded just one of Kentucky’s five punts.

Status Updates: The Vols managed to get through the regular-season finale without suffering any apparent in-game injuries.

Cunningham’s hand injury limited him to kickoff duties and also forced backup quarterback Matt Simms to hold for field goals.

Freshman Zach Fulton started at right guard for the first time since an ankle injury against Memphis limited him for two games.

Marsalis Teague started at cornerback for the first time since the Alabama game. Turf toe forced Teague to miss the Memphis game and limited him against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 32

olozbal#646632 writes:

Worst, stupidest play call ever. Oh, we made it? Best play call ever. The man is a genius.

rockytopinthedesert writes:

Let's do it again in Nashville boys!

vollady writes:

It's been a tough year for all the Vol family, (players, coaches, fans) but tonight it is just great to be a TENNESSEE VOL.

ODA751 writes:

Agree Vollady. Tough year, but the team got better every week. That's the mark of good coaching and players not quitting. I love this team. It is great to be a Tennessee Vol.

volfan1971 writes:

No guarentees that we will be offerred a bowl. Yet the big orange faithfull sell a LOT of tickets and that will be a great benefit. Believe we do deserve one more game this season considering our turn around from a disastrous October.

Prostar writes:

I am so proud of all the seniors for their dedication and staying with the program through all the adversity. You seniors will be remembered as the group that started our return to the top. We're 6/6 with a chance to be 7/6. I'll take that over the other UT at 5/7 and no chance for a bowl even with all their 4 and 5 stars. Keep this staff together, I like what I saw this year and this is only the beginning.

Catchone writes:

If DaRick wants playing time he better start hitting the weights and training room. If you don't have it on the first play of the game when will you???? Those reverse sweeps he ran were weakly finished, no explosion when contacted. Better get stronger, there will be 25 hungry freshmen wanting your playing time in 2011.

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

Love Dooley saying he'll field some punts just to show it can be done... he's a much better type of funny than Lame Kiffin

rbut5252#220065 writes:

Gonna catch some punts next just to show em......I love our coach!

PUL4VOLS writes:

I thought we might just see another fake and there it was. It was the right call and I am glad it worked. Next year we hopefully will have persons who can truly field and even return punts.

tennrich1 writes:

Agree about Da'Rick. He is an incredible athlete. He just needs to finish those runs off with a low, low, LOW hit pushing forward. Right now he tends to slack up and receive the hit instead of deliver the hit.

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to Catchone:

If DaRick wants playing time he better start hitting the weights and training room. If you don't have it on the first play of the game when will you???? Those reverse sweeps he ran were weakly finished, no explosion when contacted. Better get stronger, there will be 25 hungry freshmen wanting your playing time in 2011.

what ? Rogers did fine and will only get better and he will be a stud before its all said and done.I think you just want something to whine about.

DooleysOrangePants writes:

we have us a coach folks. next year 8-9 wins. year after that its on

uttcut writes:

Dooley is funny "ha ha"
Kiffin is funny "queer"

RoadTrip writes:

Don't even care if its the pizza bowl, 15 more days of practice will be very important going into the spring.

Love the willingness to roll the dice on the punts and on offense in general. Hard to get a bead on what we will do in a lot of situations. Must drive the opponents crazy at times.

It's been a great weekend to be a Tennessee Vol!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

On that part of the field, they're just NOT expecting that call! The fact that Dooley gave him 3 options meant that if Kentucky had lined up in a different formation, he would have just punted it! The fake was very well executed, though. Kudos to coaches and players! GREAT end to the season! Now, they get extra practices for these youngsters! GBO!!

OrangeinCarolina2 writes:

Way to GO VOLS! How proud Volnation is that you never gave up after being down. You continued to buy into the program and it sure looks like this program will deliver. Congrats Coach Dooley and staff on a fantastic job- Orange all the way! Let's rock and roll in the Music City Bowl. Great things lie ahead. GO VOLS!

Catchone writes:

in response to chrisw2967:

what ? Rogers did fine and will only get better and he will be a stud before its all said and done.I think you just want something to whine about.

Just making a observation on this comment that his legs gave out on the opening kick off and how he finishes his runs. The article is about him. Don't be so defensive, I'm just saying he better get better or someone will take his place.

volsbandit writes:

in response to olozbal#646632:

Worst, stupidest play call ever. Oh, we made it? Best play call ever. The man is a genius.

I agree 100%. If they make the fourth down conversion, it was best best play call ever. If they don't, it's time to fire him.

Brillovol writes:

in response to ODA751:

Agree Vollady. Tough year, but the team got better every week. That's the mark of good coaching and players not quitting. I love this team. It is great to be a Tennessee Vol.

Better coaching job this year than last, considering the talent we lost last year. A win in the bowl game matches last year's win total.

Take that Kiffy!

Brillovol writes:

in response to uttcut:

Dooley is funny "ha ha"
Kiffin is funny "queer"

hahahahaha!!!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to Tweetdriver63:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You got that right! Brillant call by a brillant coach!

manoffewwords writes:

CDD is funny because he is so smart.The former coach was never funny and was always not smart. This year has been sad (LSU),fun (KY)and many other emotions.We have a brilliant young Coach and Staff, with a lot of promise ahead. We lose
some good players but so does every team. NR will
be hard to replace but someone will.

punkin writes:

in response to Brillovol:

hahahahaha!!!

I busted out when I read this.

tnbigg writes:

in response to UTVOLSRROCKN:

You got that right! Brillant call by a brillant coach!

E X A C T L Y! Plus...great job by Palardy. He almost looked stunned by the ease in which he was able to take off...but take off he did! Great job again and G R E A T call!

clvolfan writes:

in response to vollady:

It's been a tough year for all the Vol family, (players, coaches, fans) but tonight it is just great to be a TENNESSEE VOL.

Agree'd,and as a long time supporter and season ticket holder,I am so proud of this staff and how the players have been coached up.No way we would have ever had faith in so many young athletes with the past staff.

lahvolman2 writes:

THIS coach has balls the size of BOWLing balls.....

LiveFaith writes:

in response to clvolfan:

Agree'd,and as a long time supporter and season ticket holder,I am so proud of this staff and how the players have been coached up.No way we would have ever had faith in so many young athletes with the past staff.

Had the previous staff (I'm assuming the long term one) played so many young athletes, they too would have went 6 and 6, the stadium would have had about 76,000 fans this weekend, that the PR dept would have pumped to 90,278, and they would have been summarily fired before coaching at any bottom level bowl game. Just a thot.

I like this staff too BTW.

givehim6 writes:

in response to volfan1971:

No guarentees that we will be offerred a bowl. Yet the big orange faithfull sell a LOT of tickets and that will be a great benefit. Believe we do deserve one more game this season considering our turn around from a disastrous October.

I remember a time when a bowl bid to a Music City or equal size bowl would be conceded an insult but I think the Vol nation has had enough humble pie to be sick of it, let Bama and UF eat it another few years. What ever bowl takes us let's fill it with orange.

gohawks1 writes:

My Quote of the Month Nomination:

“It’s called bad throws,” Dooley quipped. “I’m just showing you it’s not hard to catch the football. I’m going to go catch some punts next just to show ’em.”

Juzkruzin writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

Love Dooley saying he'll field some punts just to show it can be done... he's a much better type of funny than Lame Kiffin

Must you mention our CDD in the same sentence as.........? Lane Kiffin, the cheater, traitor (thank Goodness). This play showed that CDD has a set of stones as big as you will find on Lookout Mtn., and yes another FRESHMAN pulled it off. I think the joke was on Joker Phillips and the 7 wildcats #1 was chasing down the field. Had the one KY player look around and saw him running he would have gotten another 10-15 yards, but this was the play that KY thinking what's next and they only guess right a couple of times. They were totally out of whack from then on. I hope I can stay around to see one of the Colquit's have a son old enough to hit college age. The best part of the play he went out of bounds right in front of Joker. If KY has the Joker, we have the Illussionaire. I would bet there were no more than 15 people knew this was coming, the players and a few coaches. KY committed the Cardinal Sin on this play, if you aren't trying to block it wait till you hear the foot hit the ball before you sellout 100% downfield to set up your return. YES, way to stop this conservative ball calling.Always keep them guessing and when they guess wrong make them pay, but on the flip side let's teach our kids to be expecting this at anytime, as I have seen it ran from the three yard line for a 30 some yard gain. With a law degree and college football experience I hope CDD is smart enough not to get burned twice. He was once this year, so let's hope this is in his final prep talk before hitting the field. Isn't it Great to be a Volunteer???????

psychovol2 writes:

Loved this call because it worked. Yes I know I can't have it both ways. Seriously though, he promised an exciting brand of Vol football and he's delivered. Brilliant is what I say about how he pulled the strings on this team the whole season; with the exception of the last play in regulation at LSU of course.

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