Game recap: Tennessee 42, Montana 16
Tennessee Stat Book
Senior cornerback Art Evans made a memorable return to Tennessee's football team Saturday night.
Evans, who was suspended for the last five games of the 2010 season, intercepted a screen pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown during the Vols' 42-16 victory over Montana at Neyland Stadium.
It was the first interception of Evans' career at UT. He was listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind Marsalis Teague at right corner.
"Like I said before, I was blessed to be back here," Evans said. "The coaches helped me to walk through the whole thing, step by step, and I wanted to come back, and not really think about where I was (on the depth chart), but to come back and go out with a bang and compete, because I know I can be a great player here."
Evans' touchdown gave the Vols a 35-9 lead early in the third quarter. Montana had scored the nine previous points.
"Give Art a lot of credit because he had every reason to kind of shut it down last year," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He went through a tough time last year, we signed all these DBs, he's a senior, but to his credit, he's never complained, he's never griped, he's just gone to work, and he made probably the biggest play of the game. They'd kind of inched back in it, and he played the bubble (screen) the way we've been wanting him to play it, and he got rewarded. I'm proud of Art."
Dooley suspended Evans over concerns that his player was late on car payments.
"The biggest thing with me was if I was going to be allowed to come back," Evans said. "I always wanted to be here, coming from Florida, it's a long way from home, so I knew I wanted to be here. That was never the question."
Fumble Troubles: The Vols had five fumbles before halftime, but didn't lose any of them.
Freshman Marlin Lane had UT's first fumble late in the first quarter when he called for a fair catch on Sean Wren's punt, fumbled the ball, and picked it up at Vols' 4-yard line.
During the next drive, senior tailback Tauren Poole had two fumbles — the first recovered by Dallas Thomas and the next one by Poole.
UT had two more fumbles on the next drive. Bray's fumble while being pressured by tackle Ben Hughes was recovered by Poole. Later in the drive, Bray threw a 12-yard pass to Zach Rogers, whose fumble was recovered by freshman wide receiver Vincent Dallas.
"We had a muff, and Poole put the ground on the ball twice, which is not acceptable," Dooley said. "Zach put the ball on the ground once. We haven't had the wet ball work we needed to, looking back, and every time we had lightning issues, every time it rained (during practice), we wanted to go outside, and it showed a little bit early (not practicing with a wet ball). We weren't protecting the ball the way we needed to, but fortunately we didn't have a turnover, so sometimes that's luck, and sometimes it means guys are running to the ball pretty good."
Double Trouble: UT had two receivers pass the 100-yard receiving yardage mark in the same game for the first time since 2007.
The Vols' Justin Hunter had six catches for 146 yards against Montana, and Da'Rick Rogers had five catches for 100 yards.
"They've been doing it all camp and they both have big play ability and we're going to need them to have a lot of big plays this year for us to win some games," Dooley said. "They showed you a little taste of what they can do, and we've got to do a great job as coaches putting them in position to catch a lot of balls."
Punter Changes: Freshman Matt Darr, slotted as the Vols' No. 1 punter, had a 31-yard punt after UT's opening drive stalled. Montana's Peter Nguyen raced about 10 yards to catch the punt, fumbled, and it UT's Anthony Anderson made the recovery.
Sophomore Michael Palardy, who doubles as the No. 1 place-kicker, was the punter when the Vols were forced to punt later in the first quarter. Palardy's punt went 44 yards and stopped out of bounds.
"We had a plan to, depending on the situation," Dooley said. "Darr, really, his best punt was the one after the safety (in the third quarter), so that was good. Mike got a lucky bounce. We've got two good guys there, so Matt's still fine-tuning his operation."
Fashion Statement: Dooley wore bright orange pants and a white shirt for the season opener.
"I admit I was inspired when I saw the color orange," Dooley said. "There's nothing better than old footage. I just remembered seeing the old footage of the coaches out there, and they all had orange pants on."