Offensive notebook

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has made abundantly clear that he believes in a strong running attack. So what was he doing calling - or at least approving - 20 consecutive pass plays in Saturday's game with Kentucky?

The Vols' last two plays of the first quarter were an incompletion and 12-yard hookup from Tyler Bray to tight end Luke Stocker. Their first four plays of the second quarter were another incompletion, a 13-yard pass to Stocker, a 44-yard strike to Denarius Moore and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Jones that tied the score at 7-7.

Tennessee's next possession consisted of a 49-yard pass to Moore and a 12-yard TD toss to Moore. The next possession featured an incompletion, a 48-yard strike to Moore, a sack, a swing pass to Tauren Poole, an incompletion and a punt. After recovering a Kentucky fumble, Tennessee's next possession consisted of a flea-flicker pass that was intercepted.

The Vols ran a kneel play to end the first half, then opened the third quarter with three incompletions, a fake-punt with a pass/run option, then consecutive completions to Jones for 11 yards, to Moore for 20 and to Moore for 16.

Discounting the kneel play and the fake punt, Tennessee made 20 consecutive pass calls.

The thought of a running-game devotee such as Dooley signing off on 20 consecutive pass plays seems unthinkable. Even the head man said he couldn't remember ever having one of his teams throw so many times in a row.

"No, but I also don't remember having an inept running game the way we have," Dooley conceded. "On third-and-1, we get negative one inch."

That play - a first-quarter Poole run at the Vol 36-yard line - must've really frustrated Dooley and play-caller Jim Chaney. After punting on fourth down, they called 14 consecutive pass plays to end the first half and six more to open the second half. There were zero run calls during that stretch.

"We've got opportunities; we're just not very good running the football," Dooley said. "Why wouldn't we throw it? Show me what running play is better than some of these throws we've got, and I'll put it in. Our receivers are juiced and Tyler can throw it. So, you know what? We're just trying to win the game. We felt like that's what we needed to do."

Incredibly, Tennessee finished the first half with 200 passing yards and minus-7 rushing yards. The final stats were a little more balanced - 354 passing yards and 76 rushing yards - but that's mostly because the Vols used eight consecutive rushes to burn clock on their final possession.

"Eventually, you've got to run it, and we did," Dooley said. "That four-minute (offense) at the end was awesome."

NOTHING RATTLES BRAY

After throwing eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his first two starts, freshman quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown four TD passes and four picks in the last two starts.

One of the interceptions vs. Kentucky was an ill-advised six-yard throw into the Big Blue end zone with the score tied 14-all in the third quarter. Seemingly unaffected, Bray came out on UT's next possession and completed three of five passes in directing a 73-yard touchdown drive that gave Tennessee the lead for good.

"He doesn't get fazed," Dooley said. "It's hard to rattle him. We get a lot more rattled as coaches watching him. He had one where he says he was trying to throw it away but he served it up on third-and-1 (from the 6-yard line). That was a bad one.

"The other one (an underthrow on a flea-flicker), we took a shot on a pitch-back pass and probably could have made a better throw, but the guy made a good play. He (Bray) made one really bad decision, and that was down in the Red Zone area."

SALUTING THE SENIORS

Fifteen Tennessee seniors got standing ovations during pre-game introductions. Bray had his own way of saluting the veteran Vols. Eighteen of his 20 completions went to senior wideouts Denarius Moore (7) and Gerald Jones (6) and senior tight end Luke Stocker (5).

Bray's connections with Moore were particularly productive. The two hooked up for gains of 49, 48 and 44 yards. The obvious question: How did Kentucky's secondary let Moore get behind it three times?

"The line kept selling the run, and the safeties kept coming up," Bray explained. "We knew their safeties liked to come up and stop the run, and we were just able to get behind them."

THE NOTEWORTHY

With seven receptions for 205 yards, Denarius Moore became the first receiver in Vol history to register two 200-yard receiving games in a career. He had a 228-yard effort vs. South Carolina in Game 8. Kelley Washington holds UT's single-game receiving yards record with 256 vs. LSU in 2001. Moore's performance vs. Carolina ranks second all-time and Saturday's effort vs. Kentucky ranks fourth.

Moore is the first Tennessee wideout to record a touchdown reception in five consecutive games since Joey Kent did so in six straight contests during the 1995 season.

Bray recorded career highs in attempts (38), completions (20) and yards (354) vs. the Big Blue.

Stocker, a native of Berea, Ky., caught five passes for 55 yards vs. the home-state Wildcats. The 6-6, 253-pound senior made at least one reception in each of UT's 12 regular-season games this fall - the only Vol to do so.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories