A tale of two halves for Tennessee

Tennessee may not have won the game Saturday night, but it was the Vols that put on a great show in the first half of play. While Derek Dooley won't talk about or be happy with playing Oregon close before halftime, this young ball club battled the Ducks and Mother Nature toe to toe in the first half of play. Oregon blew open a close game and handed the Vols a disappointing loss.

No one gave Tennessee a chance with No . 7 Oregon Saturday night at Neyland Stadium - no one but the Tennessee football team and new coaching staff.

What ended up being one of the longest first halves in recent school history, was aided by Mother Nature to drag out the three-hour first half of play.

Tennessee didn't seem to mind the impending bad weather headed this way, as the Vols had their way with Oregon, scoring on their first possession and causing a Duck turnover on the ensuing kickoff.

The Vols capitalized on that turnover and all of a sudden Tennessee found itself leading nationally ranked Oregon 6-0.

Tennessee fans played their part in the Vols early success in the first quarter, before a 70-minute delay caused by lightning and inclement weather in the area.

What was impressive after the delay was the fact that at least 95 percent of the original sell-out crowd returned to its seats to support this young Tennessee ball club.

The first half of play was the Tauren Poole show.

The junior running back finished the first half with 15 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown. His longest run of the half was a 39 yarder from the line of scrimmage, and he had a 9.3-yard average per carry.

Derek Dooley said last week against UT Martin that his young ball club has to play well in the last three minutes of the first half and the last three minutes of the game.

"We didn't play well the last three minutes of the game, we gave up too many big runs and made a mistake on a big penalty that killed us," Dooley said as he was coming off the football field at half with his team tied with Oregon 13-13, instead of holding a seven-point lead.

Oregon scored on a 27-yard pass play with 1:07 left to tie the game at the intermission.

For one half of play, Tennessee gave Oregon everything it could handle and then some.

Dooley preached all week long that his young ball club would have to be patient against the favored Ducks.

"We have to slow them down, you won't be able to stop them all the time," Dooley said earlier in the week. "We can't get our head down if they score, they're going to score, we will have to stay in and respond accordingly."

Apparently, Dooley knew what he was talking about.

Oregon, after being denied on its first possession of the half, scored on a 72-yard touchdown by LaMichael James.

How would Tennessee respond?

Like a young team often does.

After two big plays by quarterback Matt Simms, Simms threw an interception for a TD return to put the game in control of the Ducks.

While you won't hear Dooley praising his team for moral victories, this team did show character and heart.

Remember, this is an Oregon team that destroyed and won 72-0 against New Mexico last week.

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