Derek Dooley has stressed to his team that he wanted a fresh start to the month of November, and he got that in more ways than one in Memphis on Saturday night.
True freshman Tyler Bray got his first start of the season and didn't disappoint. He set a UT all-time record for the most yards thrown in the first half of play.
True freshman James Stone started at center and didn't disappoint either, as he went an entire game with no fumble snaps or major miscues.
"I was really proud of the way James played," Dooley said after his team dismantled Memphis 50-14. "Of course I will need to see the film and see how he blocked, but for him to play in his first game at the position and have no fumble snaps is very crucial."
Bray also got some accolades from the head coach but Dooley was quick to point out that while the true freshman had a good night at signal caller, nobody should rush into voting for him for the Heisman, not yet anyways.
"Tyler did a lot of good things," Dooley said. "He did what we asked him to do. We knew we had them outmatched on the perimeter and thought we could throw the ball with success. He did exactly what we needed him to do, he played pitch and catch."
For Tennessee to have any hope of postseason play the Volunteers must win their remaining three games. Dooley was quick to point out that his team had just finished playing a less talented team from Conference USA.
"We now have to see how he plays next week against a better defense," Dooley said. "We got to see how we can do against a SEC team. We have three of those games left and have to play better against those teams."
Tennessee, 0-5 in SEC play for the first time in a long time, needed to gain some confidence heading into the home stretch.
"I'm sick and tired talking about how young we are," Dooley said. "I have been telling the team all week, enough is enough, it's time to throw the excuses out the window. It's time for all of us to give it our best and play ball for a complete 60 minutes. We did that tonight, now we have to do it against three better quality opponents."
Dooley wasn't shy about talking about who had the better team Saturday night.
"We have a lot better talent than they do," Dooley said. "They came out and punched us in the mouth with their first score. We settled down and played like we were capable of playing. I have been on the other side of the coin, I have had the team with the lesser talent, it's not always fun."
Now it's time to go back home and face another team similar to Tennessee for the Vols homecoming game next week.
Ole Miss will travel to Knoxville to play the Vols in a 12:21 p.m kickoff.
One down and three to go for the Vols to have hopes of postseason play.
One thing is for sure - Liberty Bowl representatives were at the game Saturday night and they would love to have Tennessee in their bowl game playing against the Conference USA champion.