Tennessee's Bray responding well after warning

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passes the ball against Troy at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passes the ball against Troy at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) passes the ball against Troy during their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 55-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess)

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) passes the ball against Troy during their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 55-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's Tyler Bray is playing as well as any quarterback in the country after being put on notice by his coach.

Derek Dooley told Bray two weeks ago that if he didn't start taking better care of the ball he would risk getting benched.

The warning has been well received.

In his last two games Bray has racked up 898 passing yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. He threw for a school-record 530 yards and five touchdowns Saturday in a 55-48 victory over Troy that ended the Volunteers' four-game losing streak. Bray also led two touchdown drives in the last three minutes to rally Tennessee from a seven-point deficit.

"It just goes to show that we can do it," Bray said after the game. "In the past, we have kind of faded away and didn't really finish as we should have. Today, we went out and finished."

Tennessee (4-5) hasn't met expectations, mainly because of a defense that has given up 35.4 points per game. The Vols have yielded at least 37 points in each of their five losses and allowed Troy to gain 721 yards, the highest single-game total ever by a Tennessee opponent.

But at least Bray is starting to live up to his own preseason acclaim.

Rated before the season as a potential first-round draft pick, Bray garnered plenty of criticism earlier this year for his struggles in clutch situations.

Bray had thrown eight interceptions and six touchdown passes through Tennessee's first four SEC games, all losses. He went 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter of a 37-20 loss to Florida. He turned the ball over on Tennessee's final three possessions in a 51-44 loss to Georgia. He received his warning about being too careless with the football after throwing two interceptions without a touchdown pass in a 44-13 loss to Alabama.

He responded to that criticism last week by going 27-of-43 for 368 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 38-35 loss to South Carolina. Bray fumbled with Tennessee in field-goal range after getting sacked by Jadeveon Clowney with 1:08 remaining, but that was one of the only mistakes he made the entire game.

And Bray simply refused to allow Tennessee to lose to Troy in the highest-scoring game in Neyland Stadium history. The two teams combined for 103 points and 1,439 yards. Tennessee's 718 total yards set a school record.

"I have never been in a game like this, so forgive me. Is that 1,400" yards? Dooley said as he glanced at the stat sheet. "Is that what I am looking at? Holy Jesus. We used to get that in a season."

Bray's 530 passing yards Saturday represented the second-highest single-game total in SEC history. Georgia's Eric Zeier threw for 544 yards in a 54-24 victory over Southern Mississippi in 1993. Bray's five touchdown passes matched a career high and the second-highest single-game total in school history, behind Erik Ainge's seven in a 52-50 overtime victory over Kentucky in 2007. A couple more potential touchdown passes were dropped.

He put up those numbers while facing the pressure that comes from knowing Tennessee needed to score just about each time it had the ball. Bray says he doesn't like playing under those types of circumstances.

"I don't think anybody does," Bray said. "It is a lot of stress, not only on us, but on the offensive coordinator too."

This season has put plenty of stress on the entire team.

Tennessee must win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible, and three straight victories would assure the Vols of their first winning season in Dooley's three-year tenure. There's no guarantee a 7-5 regular-season record would save Dooley's job, but it's hard to imagine him returning if the Vols lose one of their last three games.

The Vols' final three opponents — Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky — have a combined record of 10-18. They're also three of the four lowest-scoring teams in the SEC this season.

As long as the Vols keep playing this kind of defense, they can't take anything for granted. But if Bray performs the way he has the last two games, the Vols have a reasonable chance to win out.

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Comments » 27

CrankE writes:

"Warning"

And just in time too! No word on why coach Dooley couldn't have "warned" (or is it "coached") Bray to better take care of the football in his freshman year so as to fix this problem sooner, but hey, at least the warning is just in time for the "second season."

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

I'm pleased Bray has done so well. He can't control what the defense does, he just has to do what he can when he's got the ball.

SignalMtnVol writes:

Helluva job from Bray and the rest of the O. Gotta be a ton of pressure knowing you have to score nearly every time you have the ball.

PUL4VOLS writes:

I say keep the Warning Signs up in front of the young man. Congrats on the record setting day, keep on throwing tds. GO VOLS! I see a lot of people giving them NO CHANCE the next two games. Let's see how that plays out. I think they can....I think they can....I think they can....(the little mind that couldthinkanyway)

Ironcity writes:

Its tough to know you have to put up at least 50. I guess he goes into every game figuring he needs to throw for 4 TDs and 400 yards even before it starts. How did it become this way at UT. Use to be if you put up 300 yards of passing offense you were going to win going away. now that just gets you beat by two scores.

Prostar writes:

Our last 3 opponents may be 3 of the 4 lowest scoring SEC teams, but they haven't met our defense yet. We'll make them look so good they won't even recognize themselves. If I were Mizzou I would work on draw plays and not throwing the football for anything under 20 yards. We give up those plays the best.

Sunshine27 writes:

The fact this punk needed a warning to play well for Tennessee tells you he is a skinny, low character, arrogant, little sheet. Give me a guy that puts it on the line for Tennessee. Who wants to play well for the big Orange. Yeah he's had 2 good games....lets see him close his pathetic career with some class.

laraccoon writes:

was listening to the post game yesterday on the radio and when Tim Priest did the recap on the scoring it took about ten minutes . i aint never bought into the Gruden rumor but from an earlier article on here sounds like he is playing it coy on the UT job . Hope Hart lets the season play out , a change now makes no sense . They should probably let Sal and Ansley go for sure , and if they could afford Gruden after yesterday i would have no problem with a switch . What coach makes the most sense for the vols at this point ?last year the offense got worse over time , this year its the D. its hard to defend Dooley any more , those kids probably deserve better and recruiting will be a disaster this year .

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

I have been gone all day and sure was hoping to log on and see the headline..."Dooley Fires Big Sal". Sigh.........

Sunshine27 writes:

Brays a punk. Plays for numbers and not for Vol Nation.....hope he leaves early but problem is he isn't good enough. I hope a mean no bs coach straighten out our program!

OLROCKYTOP writes:

Thanks Tyler, please stay one more year. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you play.

voloffaith writes:

"For the good times.........." No easy ones left except for kittens.....but then that was what we thot last year. Frankly I don't think this team will take the foot off the pedal against cats to try and rid bad taste and ridicule from last year's fiasco. Mizzou tigers have elusive Franklin at qb so here we go. Let's go 1-0 next week......GO VOLS!!! Oh btw Congrats Lady Vol Volleyball for upsetting gatorettes!!

signalcorps writes:

think Im going to be sick from the spinning

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Keep playing for that contract and don't worry about your head coach that threw you under the bus to the media.

He already has his financial future secured regardless.

MikeNPS writes:

I think it is the coaching staff that should have been put on warning. Unless they immediately correct their pathetic performance, they will be unemployed in just a few weeks.

signalcorps writes:

in response to usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it:

I'm pleased Bray has done so well. He can't control what the defense does, he just has to do what he can when he's got the ball.

welcome back,,he's been one of the problems this teams not playing good ball ......off the field he's been the mad man from the wild no joke....

signalcorps writes:

in response to MikeNPS:

I think it is the coaching staff that should have been put on warning. Unless they immediately correct their pathetic performance, they will be unemployed in just a few weeks.

to late now dooley had his chance and he blew it,,,he just was not man enough to handle the best America youth has to offer..

baldingalum writes:

in response to Sunshine27:

Brays a punk. Plays for numbers and not for Vol Nation.....hope he leaves early but problem is he isn't good enough. I hope a mean no bs coach straighten out our program!

I see you posted two really mean-spirited comments about a 21 year old. He has done some stupid things, but I did too when I went to UT. Lighten up on him. Calling out young men, especially that young man - given all that he's had to deal with, is just classless.

Sunshine27 writes:

in response to baldingalum:

I see you posted two really mean-spirited comments about a 21 year old. He has done some stupid things, but I did too when I went to UT. Lighten up on him. Calling out young men, especially that young man - given all that he's had to deal with, is just classless.

Hey Baldy, playing qb at UT is a priveledge. He act as though it's his right....you sound like a wimp. If this board is to strong for you then I suggest you go to a lady vol board. Im sick of losing, especially the way we lose. Gutless...like your retort.

baldingalum writes:

in response to Sunshine27:

Hey Baldy, playing qb at UT is a priveledge. He act as though it's his right....you sound like a wimp. If this board is to strong for you then I suggest you go to a lady vol board. Im sick of losing, especially the way we lose. Gutless...like your retort.

I want 'em to win every bit as badly as you do. And yes, playing QB at UT is a privilege. They've scored enough points in every game to win. Snort at why their losing - defense, kicking and lack of depth!

bvol1inSC writes:

Bray's play, with the exception of SC, has been pathetic against SEC teams. Based on all past experience, when the pressure is on - his real character shows. Worley is our best shot at getting back to a quarterback with the character, work ethic and desire of Peyton Manning or Casey Clausen. I would like for Bray to prove me wrong...esp against Mizzou and Vandy.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

Bucksnort. TB puts up big numbers the last two games and BS is unhappy. Ah, give him a hanky (a used one would be preferable). Better yet, let someone who cares go and get his face out of that nose candy he's been working on. I'll bet his kitchen table is lined out like a set of powdered prison bars, all ready for the booger chute. Vrooooommm!!!! There it goes!! Give this toasted wonder another few minutes, and he'll be ready to post again. Real quick, this boy.

Sunshine27 writes:

in response to decades_vol:

Bucksnort. TB puts up big numbers the last two games and BS is unhappy. Ah, give him a hanky (a used one would be preferable). Better yet, let someone who cares go and get his face out of that nose candy he's been working on. I'll bet his kitchen table is lined out like a set of powdered prison bars, all ready for the booger chute. Vrooooommm!!!! There it goes!! Give this toasted wonder another few minutes, and he'll be ready to post again. Real quick, this boy.

What are you 11? You're an idiot. You're also obviously football non knowledgable. SMD

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to Sunshine27:

What are you 11? You're an idiot. You're also obviously football non knowledgable. SMD

Son, you drew a line in the sand for previous posters. If you can't come strong, then don't come at all. I was watching Tennessee win or lose while your mama was cleaning up your messy underwear. Which sounds like last week, from the cute little acronym at the end of your post. I can give you a literal rundown of UT football for the last several decades, SpongeBob, so just deal with it. Look, just to be fair, I don't like the current state of UT football any better than you do. The defense is the worst I have ever seen, and this goes back to the '60's. Absolutely pitiful. But I disagree with you about Bray. Without him we beat Ga. State, and maybe Akron. But that's it. Even with him, I'm not sure about the next two games. But it's the D, not the O.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Bray needs SEC wins. Last time I checked we were still in the SEC. Got a chance to clear the air some in next three games. It's all a team effort. You cant divide the defense and offense and spin greatness. It's about winning in the SEC. Fire Dooley and move on.

lknvol writes:

Missouri, Kentucky and Vandy will look like top 10 teams against Tennessee's defense. If Phillips could have made it to the Tennessee game, he might have gotten an extension. The KY AD saw that coming and decided to do what he needed to do before that happens. Hart needs to take note.

volprof80 writes:

Congrats to Tyler for being co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week!

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