Game recap: Tennessee 7, Arkansas 49
Tennessee Stat Book
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Near the end of the third quarter Saturday night, Justin Worley had more passing yards than one of the SEC's most prolific quarterbacks.
Tennessee, as a whole, had already surpassed its SEC season high in total offense thanks partially to a running game that was as effective as it's been all year.
And all the Vols had to show for it were seven points.
Opportunities and second chances abounded during the Vols' 49-7 loss to No. 8 Arkansas, but they mostly went squandered. Faced with a tall task against a Razorback team still in contention for a share of the SEC West title, the Vols had only themselves to blame for a number of self-inflicted wounds on the way to their fourth single-digit scoring effort of the season.
"When you don't answer the bell at some point, it's hard to sustain it," coach Derek Dooley said. "We had a lot of chances to answer the bell. And it just wears on you.
"It probably wears on (reporters) watching it. Doesn't it? Yeah, well we've got the same feeling watching."
The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) ran for their most yards (138) since their Oct. 1 rout of Buffalo and their most in SEC play since last month's 111-yard effort against No. 1 LSU. They had the ball in their possession nearly 15 minutes longer than the Razorbacks (9-1, 5-1), had two fewer penalties and notched three plays of 45 yards or longer en route to posting their highest yardage total (376) — by nearly 100 yards — of the conference season.
Rajion Neal's 11-yard touchdown run, though, was the only thing that kept the Vols from being shut out by one of the SEC's lowest-ranked defenses.
"It hurts," said Neal, who finished with 87 yards of offense. "You're so close but then you're just so far away.
"As time goes on, we're going to find that bond and that rhythm where we all can just play together and make the big plays we're capable of."
No play demoralized the Vols' offensive efforts more than Worley's interception in the second quarter, his second inside the opponent's 10-yard line in the last three games.
On the 14th play of a 72-yard drive, Worley, on third-and-goal from the Razorbacks' 5, was flushed out of the pocket before he tried to force a pass across the middle to DeAnthony Arnett. Arkansas' Tramain Thomas came from the opposite direction of Arnett to pluck the pass out of the air and prevent the Vols from making it a one-possession game heading into halftime.
"All it is is making the perfect throw and I've missed them a couple of times against South Carolina and Arkansas," said Worley, who completed 15 of 29 passes for 208 yards before he was benched in favor of Matt Simms in the fourth quarter. "I've just got to go in and work on that week in, week out."
The perfect throw was there for a number of double-digit strikes to Da'Rick Rogers during the first half. It just wasn't there on third downs, where the Vols converted just four of 18, or on fourth downs, where the Vols converted just one of four.
Given new life early in the first quarter after a Rogers fumble deep in Arkansas territory was overturned by a booth review, the Vols moved back a yard during the next three plays before a failed fake field-goal attempt.
Conceivably, the Vols' final shot at keeping the game close — midway through the third quarter and trailing 28-7 — ended when Worley threw the ball between two receivers on a fourth-and-1 from the Vols' 40-yard line.
One play later, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson made the perfect throw, a 40-yard touchdown pass to Joe Adams, and yet another second-half rout was on.
"Coach (Darin) Hinshaw does a good job of saying 'White piece of paper.' Just forget about that play and go play the next play," Worley said. "That's what we all have to do. It is tough when things are piling up. But we've got to pull out of it."
The Vols haven't scored in the second half in their last five games. In SEC play, the Vols have been outscored 118-22 in the second half.
"We're getting a lot of scars this year, a lot of learning," Dooley said. "This is like we're in advanced football school of beat-down learning. Lot of learning going on. Lot of teaching.
"I don't know how much we're learning from it."