Offensive notebook

Handling adversity is a tough but vital lesson for a young football team; Tennessee may have learned that lesson Saturday in Columbia.

When South Carolina scored two quick touchdowns to go up 24-10 with just 3:20 gone in the third quarter, recent history suggested that the youthful Vol offense would shut down. Instead, it showed resolve by launching consecutive five-play TD drives of 70 and 77 yards to tie the score at 24.

Although Tennessee ultimately lost 38-24, rallying from the 14-point deficit suggests the Vols are beginning to believe ... in their coaches and in themselves. That's significant.

"That was big, really big," senior receiver Gerald Jones said. "We don't have a lot to smile about because we lost, but if we have one thing to smile about it's that we improved on offense. We know we cut that 14-point lead and tied the ball game. That's a big plus for a young team."

Head coach Derek Dooley thought so, too, calling the game-tying rally "encouraging," then adding: "We quit looking at the scoreboard and kept competing. I think a lot of times early in the year we got affected by the score when bad things happened in the second half. Today we didn't get affected. That's good."

Understanding that a 14-point deficit is not insurmountable should help the Vols' confidence going forward, too.

"It's a huge step," Jones said.

DA'RICK THE RUSHER

After struggling for seven games to throw the ball to freshman Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee decided to hand it to him in Game 8. Rogers, a 5-star receiver as a senior at Calhoun (Ga.) High School, carried five times on end-arounds and reverses for 49 yards.

"We're trying to get him the ball a little bit more," Dooley said. "He's a big, strong runner and he's practicing good. He was our leading rusher, so we might play him at tailback next week."

First-team tailback Tauren Poole managed just 33 yards on 16 carries and backup Rajion Neal 16 yards on 6 carries.

TWO MORE FROSH START

Two Vol freshmen got their first collegiate starts Saturday - Brent Brewer at strong safety and Channing Fugate at fullback.

Brewer started in place of sophomore Prentiss Waggner, who opened at cornerback in place of struggling junior Art Evans. Fugate started in place of senior Kevin Cooper, who is serving a disciplinary suspension related to academics.

Brewer and Fugate bring to eight the number of true freshmen who have started for the Vols this fall. The others are offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James (all 8 games), guards Zach Fulton (2 games) and James Stone (3 games), wideout Justin Hunter (1 game), defensive tackle Corey Miller (1 game) and kicker Michael Palardy (4 games).

Tennessee also has started three redshirt freshmen this fall - guard JerQuari Schofield (3 games), cornerback Eric Gordon (3 games) and defensive tackle Joe Ayres (1 game).

DENARIUS EXPLODES

Senior wideout Denarius Moore posted 228 receiving yards, falling 28 yards shy of Kelley Washington's single-game school record (256) set in 2001 vs. LSU. Moore surpassed his previous personal best of 86 yards by halftime, going to the locker room with 110 receiving yards.

Five of Moore's six receptions on Saturday gained 25 yards or more, with two of them topping the 60-yard mark.

SLOW DAY FOR CHAD

Punter Chad Cunningham punted two times for a 48.5-yard average. It was his season low for punt attempts. He punted just once vs. Memphis last season. Tennessee did not have to punt in the 2009 opener vs. Western Kentucky.

THIRD-AND-GERALD

Gerald Jones solidified his standing as Tennessee's "go-to guy" in the clutch. Four of his six catches vs. Carolina came on third down and each of the four produced a first down.


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