Game Recap: UT vs UAB
Tennessee Stat Book
In the long run, the catch will be the most memorable for Zach Rogers.
In the short term, it's the drop that will be on the mind of the Tennessee receiver.
Rogers had plenty to feel good about after turning a 72-yard reception into the first touchdown of his career on Saturday against UAB at Neyland Stadium, reaffirming again the vital role the sophomore can play for the Vols during a 32-29 win in double overtime. That memory isn't likely to fade, but with a difficult trip to LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) looming on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.), the ball he didn't catch will take precedence this week.
"That's the big one for me," Rogers said. "At a crucial point in the game, I've got a chance to make a play and I didn't come up with it. That's 100 percent on me, Matt (Simms) threw a great ball and I didn't convert like I should. I take all the blame for that one.
"It definitely overshadows the positive in the game. I had another chance to make a big play, and I didn't come through for the team."
Rogers certainly wasn't the only one, and he had lots of company from a UT (2-2, 0-1) receiving corps that put at least five passes on the turf that should have gone as completions for Simms.
There were a couple misses from senior Denarius Moore, including one that could have gone for a touchdown. A couple plays after that drop, Justin Hunter failed to haul in a third-down pass along the sideline. Fullback Kevin Cooper added another one, and tight end Luke Stocker also let a touchdown slip out of his hands. And Rogers had perhaps the most glaring of all midway through the third quarter - mishandling a sure first down while wide open in the middle of the field.
Not all balls that hit the hands of a target go down as a drop in Derek Dooley's book, and for the most part the Vols coach defended his team as sure-handed in practice so far this season. But there were more than enough issues against the Blazers (1-3) to get his attention heading into preparation for a team that can considerably raise the degree of difficulty.
"The play that we threw to Luke right in the end zone, I mean, it was really a good throw because Matt put it where he needed to, put it away from the defenders and high," Dooley said during his Sunday teleconference. "It would have been a great catch, we want Luke to make it, but we didn't consider it a drop. The drops to me are just, I don't know how to define it, but they're just balls that you should absolutely catch.
"We dropped a hitch to Denarius, dropped the first play of the second half, which hurt us. We dropped two big third downs in the third quarter that I really think those three plays kept us in that funk. Had we come out in that third quarter and put some points on early, we might could have hurt them a little mentally."
Instead the damage was self-inflicted, and UT struggled mightily to move the chains and build on what was certainly a productive start for the offense early.
Moore brought down a touchdown on the opening drive, and Rogers had his big score later in the first quarter. When given time in the pocket, Simms was steady and finished 19-of-34 for 245 yards and three scores without a turnover.
But with a little bit more help from his targets, those numbers could have been even better for the junior. Ultimately though, Moore caught the ball that mattered to finish off the Blazers in double overtime to provide an unforgettable ending. Now the focus is on the memories that aren't so positive.
"Those plays hurt us," Dooley said. "We hadn't had a lot up to now. There's an occasional drop here and there, but they were all kind of, I think we started getting frustrated a little bit.
"Some plays we just need them to make."