Offensive notebook

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley loves multiple-tight end sets, yet Vol tight ends hadn't made a lot of noteworthy plays through the first nine games. That changed in Game 10, however.

Tight ends Luke Stocker and Mychal Rivera made a crucial catch each in Saturday's 52-14 beat-down of Ole Miss.

The Rebels seemed to have the momentum after trimming Tennessee's lead to 21-7 in the second quarter. Facing a third-and-13 on their own 11-yard line, the Vols appeared on the verge of giving the ball back to Ole Miss. Tyler Bray hit Rivera with a 26-yard pass, however, and the Vols scored moments later to go up 28-7.

Stocker came up big in the third quarter, gathering in a 24-yard strike on third-and-15 at the Vol 43. Tennessee scored two plays later to put the game away, 45-14.

"Mike Rivera made a huge third-down catch early in the game and Stocker made one," Dooley noted. "Both tight ends made big third-and-long catches that kept drives going and we got points.... Those were two big third downs that I remember."


Outscored a combined 164-91 in the second half of its first nine games, Tennessee reversed the trend vs. Ole Miss, outscoring the Rebels 21-0 after intermission.

When asked about this, however, Dooley disputed that his team has suffered from second-half fades.

"Early in the season in a couple of games we were not finishing drives on offense and giving up big plays on defense," the coach said. "I didn't think it was as much a product of the second half as other problems. I think we've gotten better at those other problems. Therefore, you play better in the second half.

"I never viewed it as a second-half issue. I viewed it as a problem (where) maybe we were lucky in the first half and it starts adding up over time. It was the same problems throughout the game but, the deeper you go in the game, the problems get bigger and bigger."


Blessed with a gunslinger mentality, Bray likes to take his shots downfield. Saturday, he took some shots of another kind. Ole Miss' pass rushers sacked him three times and hit him after he unloaded another half-dozen or so times.

Bray's accuracy suffered a bit but the rookie QB took a licking and kept on ticking.

"He got hit a few times," Dooley said. "He wasn't as accurate, but that happens when you've got guys coming at you. He missed some throws but he made some really good throws."

Despite taking some licks, Bray praised his protection.

"I thought the offensive line was fine the whole game ... blocked it well," he said. "I didn't have too bad of a rush and most of the hits were (caused by) me not throwing it hot and dumping the ball."


Tennessee's 52-point explosion was its biggest output in a regulation SEC game since a 59-21 defeat of Mississippi State in 2003. The Vols also scored 52 in a 52-50 win at Kentucky in 2007 but that game featured four overtimes.


The 80-yard pass from Tyler Bray to Justin Hunter on the Vols' first snap vs. Ole Miss was Tennessee's longest passing touchdown since Erik Ainge found Robert Meachem for 84 yards vs. Memphis in 2006. Moreover, the Bray/Hunter connection was the longest scrimmage play by the Vols since LaMarcus Coker's 87-yard TD jaunt at Vanderbilt in '06.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories