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Tennessee Stat Book
The memory stings, and it apparently doesn't get much less painful with time.
Certainly after just a couple days and without a chance to really atone yet for a critical dropped touchdown last weekend, the wound is still fresh for Da'Rick Rogers.
But based on the vivid recollection the Tennessee receiver has of another ball that slipped out of his hands three years ago, it's clear Rogers won't be forgetting the pass he mishandled in a loss to South Carolina last Saturday any time soon as he looks forward to a chance to make up for it against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday (TV: FSTN, 7 p.m.).
"Oh, most definitely — it hurt, it hurt," Rogers said. "Dropping a ball that easy, I haven't dropped a ball that easy since like my junior year in high school when I was standing flat-footed in the end zone. Probably basically just did the same thing. Just have to focus harder, probably took my eyes off the ball a little bit and got a little unfocused.
"I've got to make that play for (quarterback Justin) Worley, you know, his confidence and everything. I came up to him right after the play and told him, 'I owe you. I owe you a bunch of stuff.' "
Rogers could maybe start by helping get the freshman his first touchdown pass with the Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC), something he probably already should have after delivering a perfect ball deep down the field to the team's leading receiver — only to see it end up on the turf and a golden opportunity go to waste.
UT had a couple other chances it couldn't take advantage of as it dropped yet another conference game, and Worley was on the hook for a pair of them after throwing costly interceptions.
But there wasn't much more he could have done when he looked down the right sideline midway though the second quarter, and Rogers was quick to shoulder the blame during preparations for the Blue Raiders (2-5, 1-3 Sun Belt).
"I looked up, saw the end zone and just let it go through my hands," Rogers said. "That's on me. I've got to make that play for the team.
"Really, I just have to come out here this week and make sure I focus on the whole route, catching it and the whole thing and not get too excited right there at the end zone."
Rogers hasn't been in it for a touchdown the last four games since being held out of the end zone against Georgia, a streak that mostly coincides with the broken thumb Tyler Bray suffered late in that game nearly a month ago.
The Bulldogs had generally contained him even with Bray on the field, but the loss of the starting quarterback combined with the continued absence of fellow wideout Justin Hunter has ramped up the pressure even more on Rogers. It's also cut down on his easy opportunities to make something happen, which is why blowing one seems to have cut so deep.
"Every drop is not good," Rogers said. "But just off logic, there are some drops that make a bigger difference — a 5-yard hitch compared to a 70-yard touchdown in the end zone.
"It hurts. You just really have to put it behind you."
Worley Word: The experience on the field was totally new for Worley.
It also was the first time for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to call plays for him once he was out there.
That combination can make for some rough patches as the player gets comfortable and the coach finds out what his quarterback can do, which UT witnessed up close on Saturday. But with the first one is out of the way now, and Chaney is obviously expecting improvement for Round Two.
"I think the nervousness early on, he wasn't as accurate as he'd have liked to have been," Chaney said after practice Wednesday. "I think that showed up throughout the ball game off and on ... (but) we've tidied it down a little bit to tone down what he's having to do, and you know him a little bit more.
"It's always that first game with young quarterbacks. They think they know a lot, and the nervousness hits them and they don't know as much as they thought they did. Now, I know him a lot better, and he knows me better. We'll be better in Game Two."
Bumps And Bruises: After sitting out the loss to the Gamecocks, Curt Maggitt appears to be ready to go again after recovering from his calf injury.
And for now, the Vols freshman is taking it out on his teammates on the practice field.
"He's been fine, yeah," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He looks good to me, glad to have him back — made a lot of plays in the team periods.
"He brings a lot, and it hurt us in the game not having him."