Offensive notebook

When you lose your balance, you fall. That's a simple law of physics ... and Tennessee football.

When the Vols have some semblance of balance with the run and pass, they win. When they don't - as was the case Thursday night in the Music City Bowl - they tend to fall.

Tennessee passed for 312 yards and four touchdowns against North Carolina. Conversely, the Vols managed just 27 net yards on 29 rushing attempts, an average of 0.9 yards per carry. By comparison, the Tar Heels' 29 rushing attempts produced 151 yards and a 5.2 per-carry average.

"We've been doing it the whole second half of the season," head coach Derek Dooley said when asked about the pass/run disparity. "How did the running game affect (the passing attack)? The same as every other game."

Tennesseee basically had three quality rushing performances out of 13 games - a 332-yard effort in Game 1 vs. UT Martin, a 182-yard outing in Game 2 vs. Oregon and a 156-yard showing in Game 7 vs. Alabama.

The Vols also had three decent rushing performances. These came against Memphis (32 carries, 130 yards), against Ole Miss (28 carries, 118 yards) and against Vanderbilt (34 carries, 128 yards).

The other six regular-season games saw UT rush for less than 100 yards each time. The worst showings came against Florida (23 carries, 29 yards), UAB (27 carries, 42 yards) and Georgia (26 carries, 9 net yards). The Vols even managed less than 3.0 yards per carry (26 rushes, 76 yards) against a Kentucky team that ranked dead last among SEC teams against the run.

With five new starters in the offensive line and a new starter at tailback, Dooley knew Tennessee's ground attack would struggle this season. He just didn't realize the run game would be as weak as it was.

"Inadequate," he said. "Inept."

BRAY'S UP-AND-DOWN DAY

As befits a freshman, Vol quarterback Tyler Bray had his good moments and his bad moments in the Music City Bowl. The good: He threw four touchdown passes. The bad: He threw three interceptions, although one was bobbled by a UT receiver before being picked off.

"He wasn't in rhythm," Dooley said of Bray. "We didn't execute in the pass game well at all. Give North Carolina credit. We didn't get any of those downfield throws we're used to getting and we weren't executing some of the other stuff. We went back and started some quick-game stuff, and that helped us get back in it the second half.

"He continues to make some plays but he made a real bad mistake in overtime. Real bad. I'm not sure why he threw that."

NOT-SO-SENTIMENTAL STOCKER

Senior tight end Luke Stocker made perhaps the greatest catch of his Vol career on his last one - a 20-yard fingertip grab in the back of the end zone that tied the score at 27-27 and forced Thursday's game into a second overtime.

When asked how much it meant to conclude his career with such a spectacular grab, however, Stocker shrugged.

"It's better to score a touchdown than drop a pass on my last play," he said. "I guess it's something."

POOLE'S 1,000-YARD SEASON

After rushing for 994 yards in 12 regular-season games, junior tailback Tauren Poole needed just six yards in the Music City Bowl to become the 16th Vol ever to crack the 1,000-yard rushing barrier.

Poole got the necessary yardage on his first three attempts vs. North Carolina and finished the evening with 40 yards on 11 rushes. That gave him 1,034 yards - good for 14th place on UT's all-time single-season list, six yards ahead of Little Man Stewart, who ran for 1,028 in 1994.


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