Game recap: Tennessee 7, Arkansas 49
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Derek Dooley couldn't find anything wrong with the coverage.
The punt itself might have left a little to be desired, but the Tennessee coach watched his special teams close down the space on the returner and put itself in exactly the kind of position he would have drawn up.
"It was great," Dooley said.
Everything that happened after came up well short of that evaluation, with Joe Adams shaking off a handful of tacklers, juking past others and then cruising into the end zone with a huge momentum-swinging touchdown that sent No. 8 Arkansas on its way to a 49-7 win against the overmatched Vols on Saturday night at Razorback Stadium.
"We should have had him for minus-10 (yards)," Dooley said. "We had five guys there, we've got to finish it.
"We missed a lot of opportunities, there were a ton of missed tackles in space. On the punt return we had about five guys right there and we've got to finish them off."
The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) couldn't find a way to do it despite getting several sets of hands on Adams, and a couple others just simply whiffed on him during his winding, 60-yard road to a score.
That future staple on the highlight reel for the Razorbacks (9-1, 5-1) only gave them a 14-point lead, and UT had plenty of chances to close the margin and climb back into the game. But the Vols couldn't overcome their other errors on special teams, from a botched fake on a field goal to a shanked 12-yard punt, which only compounded the issues they were having on offense and defense.
"I mean, we had a lot of missed tackles on that, obviously," senior linebacker Austin Johnson said. "It was huge for them, it was a huge momentum swing for them because we were still in the game.
"I think it deflated us and we just have to make sure that when those kinds of things happen we have to stay up."
Bray Watch: Tyler Bray was in a jersey and throwing spirals to a stationary Justin Hunter before Saturday's game, his first public display since breaking his right thumb last month against Georgia.
Though Bray was throwing consistently from 25 and 30 yards, Dooley cautioned that Bray's prognosis has yet to be determined for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.
"I know he's throwing some passes but we got to MRI it ... to make sure it's healed," Dooley said. "If it's not healed, he can't play, I don't care how good he throws. But it's tough right now. It is, guys. It's tough."
Hunter, meanwhile, is still using crutches to get around on his surgically repaired left knee (torn anterior cruciate ligament), but he was able to stand without them while catching passes.
Tennessee Stat Book
QB Shuffle: For the second time in the past three weeks, quarterback Justin Worley didn't get to finish what he started.
Senior backup Matt Simms entered the game on the first play of the fourth quarter to finish off the rout. He completed three of five passes for 30 yards.
Dooley was brief in his answer when asked why he made the move, simply saying that Worley, who completed 15 of 29 passes for 208 yards and an interception, was "struggling."
"They just told me to learn from this and move on to next week," Worley said.
Worley said he's preparing for Saturday as if he's still the starter.
"It's a learning experience and I know the coaches are doing what's best for the team," Worley said. "I've just got to go in and learn from this experience, learn from South Carolina, learn from this week and go on to the next game."
Second-Guessing: UT had its backup quarterback and a walk-on running back (Jaron Toney) in the backfield during most of its fourth-quarter possessions, but the first-team offensive line remained on the field.
Dooley said he wasn't sure why he didn't use the opportunity to provide playing time for his backup linemen, a group that includes freshman left tackle Antonio Richardson.
"Probably should have," he said. "Stupid coaching."