Game recap: Tennessee 41, Buffalo 10
Tennessee Stat Book
Here's all you need to know about Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Two weeks ago in The Swamp, Tennessee got a punt blocked by Florida.
First down, Gators, at the UT 15, points soon to appear on the scoreboard. Crowd goes wild.
Saturday, Matt Darr was backed up near his goal line and sure enough, a Buffalo Bull broke in to block the punt.
Hey, no problem.
Darr scooped up the football and rambled 30 yards out of harm's way. First down, Vols.
Resume the rout.
Yep, Tennessee got what it paid for Saturday, an easy 41-10 win against overmatched Buffalo.
The original 2011 schedule called for the Vols to visit North Carolina on Saturday. In these days of a UT football recession, playing Buffalo at home seemed a more attractive option.
A crowd generously listed at 87,758 saw Tyler Bray throw four touchdown passes as the Vols improved to 3-1 coming off their only open date.
"Give Tennessee credit,'' said Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn. "Tyler Bray is a great quarterback and he has a great supporting cast.
The Tennessee defense generally stifled the Bulls (1-4), except for one notable but almost predictable breakdown, a 68-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chazz Anderson in the first quarter.
"We did what we needed to do,'' said coach Derek Dooley. "That team has played every team they've played close and they didn't today.
"Now we turn our focus to what lies ahead.''
What lies ahead is a return to a steady diet of SEC football. Georgia's up next, followed by No. 1 LSU, No. 3 Alabama and No. 10 South Carolina.
Dominating Buffalo — 541 to 264 in yardage and 38:10 to 21:50 in time of possession — is fine as far as it goes. But it might not go as far during the rest of October.
"We've got the big boys coming up next week,'' said defensive tackle Malik Jackson. "We've got to see what we do against them.''
The Bulls, comparatively speaking, weren't big boys and Tennessee did just fine from the get-go.
The defense recorded a three-and-out stop on the opening possession, Knoxville's Devrin Young returned a punt 43 yards on his first collegiate touch and Bray needed only three plays to cover the remaining 48 yards.
Rajion Neal got the score on a 20-yard end-around call for a 7-0 lead.
The next score, a 7-yard completion, went to Da'Rick Rogers, the first of his two touchdowns on a 180-yard receiving day.
Rogers got free for a 12-yard TD catch to make it 24-7 in the second quarter. There was still time for Bray to squeeze in a 13-yard touchdown pass to freshman DeAnthony Arnett for a 31-7 halftime lead.
The second half wasn't nearly as aesthetic. Bray and Arnett conspired for an 8-yard score to make it 38-7 with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
Michael Palardy's second field goal was the only other addition.
"I was proud of how we jumped on them,'' Dooley said. "It was a really good first half.
"I was disappointed in the second half. We lost our focus. We made a ton of mistakes on offense: drops, snaps, penalties, missed assignments.
"It just looked sloppy.''
Said Bray, "It was almost like we looked at the scoreboard and said, 'OK, we're gonna cakewalk like we did the first half.' ''
Good thing, then, that Buffalo wasn't exactly strutting either.
The Bulls had several chances to cut into Tennessee's margin but weren't up to it.
UT's defense came up with two fourth-down stops and forced Buffalo to settle for a field goal on another promising threat.
When the Vols weren't giving up a 60-plus-yard touchdown for the fourth consecutive game, they held Buffalo to 10 first downs and only 3-of-13 on third-down conversions.Offensively, there was some relief in the running department. The net was 199 yards, which is 208 more than last time out against Florida.
Tauren Poole plugged for 101 yards on 17 carries, a satisfactory 5.9-yard average.
"It went a lot better than it has been,'' said tackle Ja'Wuan James, "but there's still a lot of room for improvement.''
Bray bowed out 21-of-30 for 342 yards with no interceptions, letting Matt Simms handle the final possession.
"He had patience,'' said Buffalo corner Courtney Lester. "He picked us apart, really. He made all the right reads.''
"As long,'' said Dooley, "as we can throw and catch like that, we'll be OK.
"That's 11 yards an attempt. That's a big number.''
The kicking game was looking for some big numbers in the previously drab return game and Young obliged with the 43-yard punt return and a 34-yard kickoff return.
And he also fumbled a kickoff return. The Vols botched another kick return when Cameron Clear, a tight end by trade, couldn't come up with a funny bounce.
But this day against this opponent, there wasn't a terrible bill to pay for bobbles.
"I still don't know where we are,'' Dooley said.
"We've had three teams come in here and we took care of them the way we need to. We went down to The Swamp and gutted it out for four quarters but didn't play our best.
"We'll see how we do next week. We have so many young guys it's hard to make judgments. They look different every week.''