Great timing, great win

Timing is everything, and Saturday night was the perfect time for Tennessee's struggling football team to visit Liberty Bowl Stadium. It also was the perfect time for freshman quarterback Tyler Bray to make his first college start.

Bray lit up a comically inept Memphis pass defense for five touchdowns and 308 passing yards in guiding the Vols to a 40-7 halftime lead. In the process he broke the school record of 305 yards in a half set one year earlier by Jonathan Crompton against - surprise, surprise - Memphis.

Bray returned to Earth in the second half but still finished 19 of 33 for 325 yards in leading the Big Orange to a 50-14 romp.

While Saturday was a good night to be Tyler Bray, it also was a good night to be Jim Chaney. Everything the Vol offensive coordinator called worked against a generous Memphis defense that came in allowing 473 yards and 41.5 points per game. Tennessee topped those numbers by posting 509 total yards and 50 points.

Vol tailback Tauren Poole rushed for 101 yards on just 16 carries. Denarius Moore, coming off a six-catch, 228-yard receiving performance last weekend at South Carolina, tacked on a six-catch, 103-yard effort against the Tigers.

Still, this night belonged to Bray. The soft-spoken, strong-armed rookie looked like a Ryan Mallett clone for the game's first 30 minutes. After completing 17 of 28 passes in the first half, he went just 2 of 5 for 17 yards to start the third quarter, then gave way to junior Matt Simms, who went the rest of the way. Simms, the guy Bray supplanted as the No. 1 QB, finished 3 of 5 for 54 yards.

Tennessee's receivers enjoyed the rout as much as anyone. Moore caught a 14-yard touchdown pass. Justin Hunter reeled in a 42-yard scoring aerial and fellow freshman Da' Rick Rogers had a 22-yarder. Gerald Jones caught a 10-yarder and tailback Poole caught a 10-yarder, as well.

The Vols converted on nine of 15 third-down tries and went 6 for 6 on Red Zone opportunities.

All in all, it was a glorious night for a Tennessee offense that hadn't put up many big numbers since a 50-0 Game 1 blowout of UT Martin from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Some will note that Tennessee posted Saturday night's eye-popping numbers against a Memphis team that has a 1-8 record and one of the worst defenses on the planet. That's true. But this is not the time to nit-pick.

And timing, after all, is everything.


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