QB controversy

Tennessee had a clearcut No. 1 quarterback for seven games. That is no longer the case in the wake of Saturday's 38-24 loss at South Carolina.

Head coach Derek Dooley pulled junior starter Matt Simms after he lost two fumbles while being sacked but let freshman backup Tyler Bray stay in the game after his first pass was intercepted and returned 24 yards for a touchdown by Gamecocks defensive end Devin Taylor.

Clearly, Dooley felt Bray's miscue was more forgivable than the two made by Simms. The head man thought the Gamecocks baited Bray into his mistake.

"They did a good job; they showed total blitz," Dooley said. "We had a little quick game called, and they dropped the end out. He (Bray) had never seen that before; he's a freshman. I think every quarterback has done that. He's got to see it. I'm not going to beat him up too bad over that one play."

Senior receiver Gerald Jones wasn't surprised that Dooley allowed Bray to work through his mistake.

"Not at all. Not at all," he said. "He's been doing good all year, making big plays. He's a guy that just goes out there and plays ball, don't put a lot of stress on himself. He has fun. With a young quarterback, you expect mistakes but he makes good plays, as well."

Simms (10 of 13, 153 yards) was just as efficient passing the ball as Bray (9 of 15, 159) but drew his head man's ire with the two fumbles.

"Matt did some good things early," Dooley said, "but we held the ball twice and gave up a turnover twice on a sack. You just can't do that. Those are critical mistakes. One of 'em was going in (for a score)."

Tied 3-3 with a first-and-goal at Carolina's 6-yard line, Simms was sacked twice - the second time coughing up the ball on third down and probably costing the Vols a go-ahead field goal. His second sack/fumble occurred on the second play of the third quarter and set up a 27-yard TD drive that produced a 17-10 Gamecock lead.

"We can't put the ball on the ground when we get hit," Dooley said. "It was a couple of bad events. We've got to learn from it, grow from it and move on."

Despite throwing a pick-six on his first pass attempt, Bray settled down and played well thereafter. He showed no ill effects of the awful start.

"You wouldn't even know he threw it," Jones said. "He was just out there playing backyard football - throwing the ball and having fun."

Bray conceded as much.

"With the pick-six, I didn't see that defensive end drop," he said. "I came back in the second half and said, "Hey guys, let's go,' and started throwing it to the playmakers."

Senior wideout Denarius Moore, who caught six balls for 228 yards, praised Bray's poise and resilience.

"I'm real proud of him," Moore said. "He came in and was a little shaky at first. But he came in with confidence. After he threw the pick we just told him to calm down and keep his head in the game, to play backyard football."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories