Tennessee's offense rescues defense against Troy, 55-48

Tennessee running back Marlin Lane, left, is congratulated by teammate Tyler Bray after scoring the winning touchdown against Troy at Neyland Stadium, on Saturday. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee running back Marlin Lane, left, is congratulated by teammate Tyler Bray after scoring the winning touchdown against Troy at Neyland Stadium, on Saturday. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

All those points, all those plays, all those yards. They just kept coming. It was hard to absorb.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley admitted he’d never seen anything like it, that football traditionalists were “rolling over in their graves,” after a 55-48 win over Troy on homecoming Saturday.

Still, it took a while to comprehend.

Looking down at the stat sheet in his hand midway through his postgame media session, the math suddenly computed.

“Is that 1,400?’’ Dooley said, seizing on the combined total yardage. “Holy Jesus.

“We used to get that much in a season.’’

A Neyland Stadium crowd announced generously as 84,189 was treated — or subjected? — to:

A Neyland Stadium-record 103 points.

A staggering combined 175 offensive plays, 99 of them by Troy.

And a record-setting 1,439 yards of offense.

The final points came via Marlin Lane’s 9-yard run with 1:25 to play, followed by Michael Palardy’s PAT kick.

That broke a 48-48 tie, but on this day, the Vols were hardly home free.

Tennessee’s defense still had to get a stop — and it hadn’t gotten many all day.

Over the final 78 seconds, the defense bent a little more but it didn’t break. Troy’s fourth-down pass from the UT 40 sailed incomplete and the clock ran out.

Finally, after 41 days, Tennessee (4-5) had a victory, ending a four-game spate of losing against ranked SEC opponents.

The carnage showed Troy (4-5) with 721 yards of offense, the most ever allowed by a UT defense.

“It’s a bad defense,’’ said Dooley, “we didn’t really have an answer for anything.’’

The Vols countered with 718 yards, a school record.

Tyler Bray’s arm authored 530 of them, breaking Peyton Manning’s 1997 UT single-game passing record.

Bray was 29 of 47 with five TD passes.

“I just knew we were down seven with three minutes to go,’’ said Bray. “That’s all I was worried about.

“I could care less about breaking records.’’

Bray’s reference was to Troy taking a 48-41 lead on Corey Robinson’s 67-yard TD bomb to Eric Thomas with 3:14 left.

Robinson, who grew up a UT fan dreaming of playing in Neyland Stadium, passed for 393 yards.

Bray remedied the above dilemma with a 46-yard TD pass to Justin Hunter to make it 48-48 with 2:54 to play.

Then, after UT’s defense forced a rare Troy punt, Bray led the drive that produced Lane’s game-winning touchdown.

“We did gut it out in the fourth quarter,’’ Dooley said. “That’s something Tyler had never done.

“It used to be you’d grind ‘em out 9-6. Now you grind ‘em out 55-48. It’s a new era.’’

Hunter also had TD catches of 21 and 40 yards as Tennessee spurted to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter.

Hunter’s nine catches and 181 receiving yards were only good for runner-up honors. Cordarrelle Patterson had nine catches for 219 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.

Lane also scored on a 17-yard run in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 132 rushing yards.

Rajion Neal returned from a two-game absence to snag a 23-yard TD pass from Bray to put Tennessee up 41-40 early in the fourth quarter.

No lead was safe all day for either team.

Troy easily bettered its previous scoring total against an SEC opponent.

The Trojans scored on three consecutive second-quarter possessions to wipe out Tennessee’s 28-10 lead and signal that the Vols had not solved their season-long defensive issues.

Troy repeatedly converted on third-and-long. The Trojans were able to escape poor field position with big gains time after time.

“It ain’t always gonna be how you draw it up in practice,’’ said UT safety Byron Moore.

It’s hard to say how Tennessee drew it up in practice.

“We knew statistically it was gonna be a tough game,’’ said Dooley. “Not this tough.

“You see these games all over the country. It’s certainly not something Tennessee is used to.’’

In fact, UT fans are starting to get used to it.

The Vols have yielded at least 38 points in five consecutive games, at least 41 in four of the five.

“We thought we could move the ball,’’ said Troy coach Larry Blakeney. “We had no idea we would get 48 points.

“If you told me we were going to score 48, I would have told you we were going to win by three or four scores.’’

But when the final play had gained the final yard, Tennessee had won.

Now it’s back to SEC play. Next up is Missouri (4-5, 1-5) making its Neyland Stadium SEC debut, followed by Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3) and Kentucky (1-9, 0-7).

“I feel pretty good,’’ Dooley said, “better than you guys think.

“Just think of the alternative.’’

In the previous four hours, a lot of UT fans had done just that.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 43

Wauconda_Vol writes:

Where in the world do we go from here?

smokeyvol1 writes:

That was a big ol pile of Dooley DOO DOO!

mountainbrook writes:

in response to Wauconda_Vol:

Where in the world do we go from here?

Down.

Vols_fan_27 writes:

in response to Wauconda_Vol:

Where in the world do we go from here?

Down Cumberland, hang a left on Gay St. and grab a beer at Downtown Brewery. Drink this misery away... Only answer I have...GBO!

Ironcity writes:

Defensive player of the game was the clock operator. He knocked off 15-20 seconds on that last drive otherwise Troy likely scores.

6972 writes:

I am speechless. There are no words......except to say it's hard to rejoice in this "win".

DavidB writes:

Patterson is a beast. Offense looked pretty dang good today. Worst defense I have seen in my life though. So the problem we thought was just the 3-4 but today we ran mostly a 4-3.

We may have some major coaching problems in Knoxville. They just aren't teaching these kids how to play defense. Offense has improved 100% and seems to get better each week. Defense seems to get worse each week.

So many people want Dooley fired tonight. Though I will agree he is not the man for the job I will say firing him today does not help anything. Hart may very well be talking to other coaches to see if they are interested but if he is he is doing a great job of keeping it quiet.

Sunseri on the other hand I could see getting rid of him tonight. No matter who coaches the vols they will have my support. I think the only way we replace Dooley is if we hire a proven sec coach. Just because you worked for saban doesn't make you a proven coach.

OLROCKYTOP writes:

Offense is the only reason we are not 2-7. If we would have had just a mediocre defense we would be 6-3 or maybe even 7-2. The coaching staff should be completely ashamed of their defense!

GloryDays writes:

It is real easy to be negative but Tennessee fans should give the Vols Offfensive line a lot of credit! Those guys are really good. Hunter, Patterson and Bray had a great game, they played really well. Sal's defense is terrible and he is ruining this program for everybody.

pcorange writes:

in response to OLROCKYTOP:

Offense is the only reason we are not 2-7. If we would have had just a mediocre defense we would be 6-3 or maybe even 7-2. The coaching staff should be completely ashamed of their defense!

Maybe it's the other way around. The defense should be completely ashamed of their coaching staff!

volaholic45 writes:

Sooo, this is the new normal? I don't think so, Coach.

Sure, he's feeling better than the reporters think. Even if he gets fired it's worth 5 large to him.

OLROCKYTOP writes:

in response to pcorange:

Maybe it's the other way around. The defense should be completely ashamed of their coaching staff!

LOL!! Great point.

Prepare writes:

Maybe we should let the KNS keep score for the opposing team. 55+48=93 points. LOL!!!

DavidB writes:

Now way there were 84,000 there. Even if you counted the players, the band, the media, the ushers and concession stand employees there were no more than 60,000 there.

seofeed writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Defensive player of the game was the clock operator. He knocked off 15-20 seconds on that last drive otherwise Troy likely scores.

No question about it and it wasn't fair to Troy. The announcers should have picked up on it as well.

romevol writes:

30 years ago, my grandfather took me to my first UT game. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The rough look of the stadium at gate 21, the smell of beer in the air, hotdogs being thrown at me from down the aisle, and having to stand in line with all the ole timers grumbling about the game (that UT won 24-21 that day btw). I’ve driven from Georgia to at least two games every year since 1996. Some of those games were great, and some were well…not so much. I remember attending UT/Marshal game a few years back when they ran us out of the stadium twice due to lightening, and the first loss to Vandy in over a decade. Regardless, there was usually a sense of optimism about what we were going to do.

Today, I decided that it was high time I carried my son to a UT game. It was so awesome seeing him be that excited over an event that, although I’m still excited, I have grown accustomed to. I could not help but reflect on the past and how much has changed. The stadium looks nothing like it once did – it is amazing now. The concessions and bathrooms (although you still have to line up at the ole trough) are nothing like they used to be, and between the jumbotron and the TVs everywhere, it is much easier to keep a young man occupied for 4 hours.

However, some of the changes in this 30 year span are not as welcome. First, I know the economy is bad and ticket prices are outrageous, but the attendance at kickoff today seemed lower that it has been in a long…long time. People will not pay those prices for a product they do not deem worthy (and yes, I know it was homecoming).

The overall mood around us, and we moved three times, was basically frustration and disappointment. There just isn’t the same fire and intensity around this program that we once had. It was as if they, along with all the fans, were holding their breath and crossing their fingers praying they could pull out a win against - Troy. For all the good things happening on offense, there is so much more potential there, and we still probably gave up at least two TDs because of passes that hit people in the numbers. The defense was, in a word, pathetic. Troy ran on us at will, and I am convinced, with more time on the clock, that they could have tied it up.

Summing it up, if there has been a more frustrating and disappointing era in UT history, it must have been before I started attending, because I have just not seen it. I can’t wait to see our football program return to greatness where we belong. Lord knows we have some beautiful facilities to support it. GO VOLS!

JDX47 writes:

Is it me or does Dooley have some of the most bizarre quotes for a coach, especially one on the hot seat. "We are a bad defense, we really have no answers, traditionalists are turning over in their graves, we knew it was statistically going to be a tough game, we used to grind em out 9 - 6, now we grind em out 55 - 48."

6972 writes:

As disappointed as the fans are, I can vaguely imagine what the team (especiallly the defense) feels like. I remember a game I was involved in and we got our butts kicked good. It was not a good feeling. I feel sorry for the guys.

wallingdad writes:

in response to romevol:

30 years ago, my grandfather took me to my first UT game. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The rough look of the stadium at gate 21, the smell of beer in the air, hotdogs being thrown at me from down the aisle, and having to stand in line with all the ole timers grumbling about the game (that UT won 24-21 that day btw). I’ve driven from Georgia to at least two games every year since 1996. Some of those games were great, and some were well…not so much. I remember attending UT/Marshal game a few years back when they ran us out of the stadium twice due to lightening, and the first loss to Vandy in over a decade. Regardless, there was usually a sense of optimism about what we were going to do.

Today, I decided that it was high time I carried my son to a UT game. It was so awesome seeing him be that excited over an event that, although I’m still excited, I have grown accustomed to. I could not help but reflect on the past and how much has changed. The stadium looks nothing like it once did – it is amazing now. The concessions and bathrooms (although you still have to line up at the ole trough) are nothing like they used to be, and between the jumbotron and the TVs everywhere, it is much easier to keep a young man occupied for 4 hours.

However, some of the changes in this 30 year span are not as welcome. First, I know the economy is bad and ticket prices are outrageous, but the attendance at kickoff today seemed lower that it has been in a long…long time. People will not pay those prices for a product they do not deem worthy (and yes, I know it was homecoming).

The overall mood around us, and we moved three times, was basically frustration and disappointment. There just isn’t the same fire and intensity around this program that we once had. It was as if they, along with all the fans, were holding their breath and crossing their fingers praying they could pull out a win against - Troy. For all the good things happening on offense, there is so much more potential there, and we still probably gave up at least two TDs because of passes that hit people in the numbers. The defense was, in a word, pathetic. Troy ran on us at will, and I am convinced, with more time on the clock, that they could have tied it up.

Summing it up, if there has been a more frustrating and disappointing era in UT history, it must have been before I started attending, because I have just not seen it. I can’t wait to see our football program return to greatness where we belong. Lord knows we have some beautiful facilities to support it. GO VOLS!

Making memories with your son is priceless. that's great. I remember a game against UCLA that I took my father and my 2 sons back in the 80's. my kids went on to go to school there and they still talk about that day. We do need to keep this all in its proper perspective for sure

movol53 writes:

I'm watching the Bama / LSU game the the question of the game who has a which head active head coach has a winning record over Saban? We all know him: Tommy Tuberville, Hmmmm . . . . . next????

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

"I feel pretty good,'' Dooley said, "better than you guys think.
"Just think of the alternative.''

Dooley, you are a joke. Think of the alternative...you know what, that's all I think about. Gruden, Strong, Peterson, Petrino...

I definitely am thinking of the alternative.

volpreacher writes:

in response to DavidB:

Now way there were 84,000 there. Even if you counted the players, the band, the media, the ushers and concession stand employees there were no more than 60,000 there.

That's the amount I guessed.

TrouserCough writes:

Please fire him

born2ride writes:

Sal just needs more time (like Dooley) to fix things.

Orangepuddinskin writes:

Swissseri cheese has to stop. Hire a flipping defensive coordinator. PLEASE. Not a linebacker coach. A FLIPPING DC.

volpreacher writes:

Third and Chavis just cost LSU game against Alabama too. Played too soft and let them move it down the field.

Colts_VolFan writes:

in response to born2ride:

Sal just needs more time (like Dooley) to fix things.

That's right. In a couple of more years they should be able to hold them to around 500 total yards.

NomDePlume (Inactive) writes:

Coach 'em up!

annonyknox writes:

Do the men cheerleaders still do push-ups for the Vols total points when Tennessee scores? Those guys need to get some rest.

shorttail writes:

some players on defence need to man-up and tell the coagh to play someone else in his position

fearthehound writes:

in response to movol53:

I'm watching the Bama / LSU game the the question of the game who has a which head active head coach has a winning record over Saban? We all know him: Tommy Tuberville, Hmmmm . . . . . next????

Not even a chance...but keep your eye on Kirby. Hart hearts Bama coaches.

laraccoon writes:

this is season 0 for Sal via Dooley math .

orangetick writes:

FIRE Sal, FIRE Sal, FIRE Sal NOW

maciste54 writes:

in response to JDX47:

Is it me or does Dooley have some of the most bizarre quotes for a coach, especially one on the hot seat. "We are a bad defense, we really have no answers, traditionalists are turning over in their graves, we knew it was statistically going to be a tough game, we used to grind em out 9 - 6, now we grind em out 55 - 48."

I'm glad somebody else notices this. I felt very early on that Dooley had a strange way of expressing himself. Even in his earliest interviews after being named coach at UT I was going "huh"? to some of his statements.

VOLtage writes:

I'm as serious as a heart attack, ack, ack, ack, ack, ack you ought-a know by now (thanks Billy Joe) that if they don't get more speed on their defense between now and when they play Oregon next year Oregon will be the first team in modern history to score over 100 points. Remember you heard it here first.

kd45music writes:

It's just way too painfully obvious that Dooley is simply not a head coach, especially in the SEC. If he is still around next season, it will only get worse. He simply does not inspire me, so I can't imagine that he inspires the team. He's as exciting as oatmeal. He belongs at a small school where there are no athletic scholarships. He's just way over his head here. There is no enthusiasm for this team, and I dread what the next recruiting season will be like with him as head coach. What kid in his right mind would pick UT over Florida, Georgia, Alabama, etc? I doubt there will be many four or five star recruits around that choose UT.As bad as this season is, I'm already dreading the next one. The chemistry on this team is a failed experiment.

John_10065 writes:

Defense wins championships.

philgreen5#410561 writes:

Get this staff out of here before they ruin UT football for the next 10 years, if they haven't already. How many millions will be recovered with ticket sales by just having a competent staff next year? The General must be turning over in his grave. How are we going to beat Missouri and Vanderbilt with this defense? If we just had an average defense, we may be sitting at 7-2 right now.

Supersayin1 writes:

WOW I bet if UT played Oregon now the scores would reach unheard of numbes! can imagin the yards given up by each team!

volfan1202 writes:

If you want Dooley gone, stay away from the games. The AD will have no choice but to respond.

tovolny writes:

One of these days Alice, One of these days.

RECRUIT SPEED Tennessee, RECRUIT SPEED Tennessee.

Put freshmen in at DB positions. Put 'walk-ons' in. Place an ad in Smokey's Tail..."Defensive Backs needed, inquire at the Defensive Coordinators Office."

AND, what happened to Smith, Walls, and the big Nose Guard. ...YEAH, Corey Miller and Prentice should be on the field as much as possible. Why are these guys playing only at nickle time?

One of these days Alice, One of these days. Defensive Ends, Safeties, and Corners “KICK IT UP A NOTCH guys. You guys are not giving it your ALL. If you work hard enough, you can jump over the talent gap.

One of these days Alice, one of these days.

Simply_Orange51 writes:

Reading and listening about the communication issue that keeps popping up in interviews and on various posts makes me wonder about something. Defense last year wasn't a world beater but light years ahead of where they are currently. New coordinator comes in and most of the defensive staff from last year leaves. New terminology, new definitions on individual responsibilities and assignments(switching to 3-4); plus, a coach with a different style of teaching. Put all that together and I have no trouble seeing the communication issue jumping up to bite the defense in the butt.

There are two big weaknesses I see on defense. This team is stuck in low gear, they are thinking (not reacting instinctively) and they don't move fast enough to the ball.

When they are all on the same page, they make some pretty decent plays but they can't sustain it. The differences between a tackle for a loss and a twenty yard play can literally be measured in inches.

You can be a world beater as a coach but if the teaching "ain't working" - might as well close the shop and go home. Albert Einstein once said the definition to insanity was doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Radical change is needed and it's not necessarily a coach change - just something different, anything to stop this funk the defense is in and start today. I don't think it can get much worse even if they spent the whole week holed up in a classroom solving their communication issues but solve it they must. To the TN players - Good luck this coming week.....

JWC52 writes:

Listened to vol calls last weds night. Dooley said we were going to "work like heck" to fix the problems. Sound familiar?

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