Denarius Moore: 'We understood what had to get done'

Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore makes a catch from Tyler Bray in front of Kentucky defender Anthony Mosley at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore makes a catch from Tyler Bray in front of Kentucky defender Anthony Mosley at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky game recap

Tennessee's senior receivers spotted the Kentucky defense a quarter Saturday, a result, they said, of the malaise that can typically linger shortly after the pre-game pageantry of Senior Day.

Not even a 78-yard kickoff return by freshman Da'Rick Rogers to open the game was enough to wake up Gerald Jones.

"Da'Rick made that big play," Jones said. "And I was still in a trance."

A trio of veterans made up for it in a big way with their respective efforts in the second, third and fourth quarters of UT's 24-14 bowl-clinching victory over Kentucky.

It was a fitting end for Jones, Denarius Moore and tight end Luke Stocker. The disappointing start followed by a resounding finish was their senior season in a nutshell.

"It's one of those things where we just set our mind to it and we want to go out and have more production from ourselves," Stocker said. "We challenged ourselves and challenged each other and we responded well."

It wasn't just a response. It was complete control of the Tyler Bray-navigated passing game.

Moore became the first receiver in UT history to notch two 200-yard receiving games not just in a season, but for a career. Jones notched his sixth consecutive game with at least four catches, finishing with six receptions for 77 yards. Stocker wrapped up his UT career with at least one catch in every game this year, tying his season-high with five receptions for 55 yards.

Outside of his 17-yard completion to freshman fullback Channing Fugate early in the fourth quarter and a no-gain screen to tailback Tauren Poole earlier in the game, Bray completed all of his passes to the senior trio.

Really, Bray embodied the Senior Day theme by barely targeting anyone who wasn't playing their last game at Neyland Stadium.

"It's been great having them," Bray said. "We have routes where they haven't been the called route, but they've had to make something up and it works.

"Just having them with game experience, it helps us a lot."

That was the thought at the beginning of the season, too, but it took a few injury hurdles and a 2-6 start to the season before all three started clicking at the same time.

Jones missed four games with a broken hand, all but debilitating the Vols on third downs. Stocker caught two passes or less in four of the first six games. Moore went through a three-game stretch in October where he had just four catches for 37 yards and only played two snaps against Alabama.

Coach Derek Dooley didn't hesitate to call the players out for their lack of production during UT's worst stretch of the season, when seemingly everything was going wrong in the team's 0-for-October.

It didn't fall on deaf ears.

"We took it personal upon ourselves," Moore said. "We sat down and talked to each other about what we need to do. Whether it's coming in and watching more film, picking it up in practice and the tempo, we just wanted to be leaders."

Moore led the way Saturday, overcoming his drop in the end zone for a sure touchdown on the game's first drive by ripping away a jumpball from Kentucky cornerback Randall Burden for a 44-yard gain. One play later, Jones had his third touchdown of the season and UT was done trailing the Wildcats.

Moore caught passes of 49 and 48 yards on the next two drives, as the Vols exploited a Kentucky secondary that came into Saturday's game ranked second in the SEC on pass defense.

"The guy was going loco on everybody," Dooley said, referencing the team's recent celebration gesture that was started by Moore.

"I told him to get some oxygen because we're going to keep throwing it to him and he did great."

Kentucky's respect for Moore's deep-pass capabilities opened up plays to Stocker and Jones on short, underneath routes. Jones notched four catches for 55 yards in the second half, while Stocker picked up three for 30, the bulk of which came on a highlight-reel stampeding of a Kentucky defender for 21 yards.

"I just lowered my shoulder," Stocker said. "I stayed up. He went down."

Faced with the prospect of a postseason-free end to their career, UT's three senior receivers opted to stay up when the only direction appeared to be down.

"It's a big accomplishment," Moore said. "We understood what we had to get done."

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 12

MiserableFloridaVol writes:

What a great weekend for Tennessee sports. The future is certainly looking brighter than it did 6 months ago.

fpcoach writes:

in response to MiserableFloridaVol:

What a great weekend for Tennessee sports. The future is certainly looking brighter than it did 6 months ago.

The Vols have definately made the holiday weekend much more enjoyable.

volfan1971 writes:

Excellent leadership by these seniors. Picked up the pace when it counted. Now on to Nashville?

PUL4VOLS writes:

Loved the Stocker Sockum on that catch, fabulous! All three seniors went out at Neyland on a high note. We will miss you guys next year but hope you have a great game come bowl time. Great play today!

mytrifecta writes:

very happy for these guys. They've earned everything they've accomplished and it couldn't have been easy with 3 head coaches in 4 years.

UTByrd writes:

I'm sure Bray was in the huddle talking to the seniors and told them that, no matter what play was called, get open and I'll hit you.
The seniors have bestowed their trust on TB and it sure shows. Imagine next game as well as next year.
Go VOLS!!!!!

Brillovol writes:

Too bad I wasn't there for senior day, but I'll be here in Nashville rooting them on in the bowl game.

JohnnyVol writes:

These seniors are class acts. They have been through so much, and have persevered.

BTW: It sure does feel good that CLK lost to Notre Dame. It was too bad that he held true to form by throwing his senior receiver under the bus as the press conference.

gatorhator4eva writes:

omg, unbelievable game by moore. even better athletic ability. bray just puts up there and moore takes it out of the air. hats off to seniors. hope to see some of them on the sidelines next year cheering on the vols. things are lookin up in k-town!

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to CrippledCoon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I would add two things to that perfect weekend: watching Alabama and Florida lose.

BreweryVol writes:

This senior class will be one of my all time favorite, because they persevered through so much. Three head coaches in three years. They could have left for other schools like so many of their fellow athletes the last two years, but their dedication to Tennessee meant more to them. Go forth and hold your heads high, You are UT.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I would add two things to that perfect weekend: watching Alabama and Florida lose.

Well, gyrene, Fla did manage 7 points.

LOL

And the Bama QB heard the birdies chirping on that wicked slam to the turf.

What a lick, hope he'll be ok.

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