Bray breaks loose

Tennessee's offensive players couldn't execute last weekend but they could hear. And what they heard following spring scrimmage No. 1 stung.

Head coach Derek Dooley called their performance "abysmal," and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney salted the wound by noting that Dooley's remark qualified him to be "the kindest man I've ever worked for."

After a week of such verbal abuse, the Vol offense couldn't wait for a shot at redemption.

"It's always a challenge any time the head coach calls out one side of the ball - offense or defense," sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray said following a 90-minute workout at Neyland Stadium. "You've got to come out the next week and prove him wrong."

After coming out flat a week ago, the attack unit reportedly played with considerably more enthusiasm in Scrimmage No. 2.

"After our first drive, I knew this scrimmage was going to go well," Bray said. "The energy level was up. We went down and scored in like five or six plays with no incompletions. Tauren (Poole) was running the ball great. The offense was clicking."

In addition to better energy, the attack unit showed much better focus in its second dress rehearsal of the spring.

"I don't think we had any miscommunications this week," Bray said. "Everything was fine. Everything was clicking, and the offense was looking good."

After completing just 11 of 27 passes for 172 yards last weekend, Bray bounced back big-time today - connecting on 17 of 30 throws for 258 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. Backup Matt Simms struggled (6 of 16 for 45 yards with two interceptions) but mid-term freshman Justin Worley had a solid day, going 10 of 15 for 64 yards.

Poole, limited to 21 yards on nine rushes in Scrimmage No. 1, posted 70 yards on 13 carries in Scrimmage No. 2. Backup tailback Rajion Neal added 53 yards on 17 carries and 35 yards on seven receptions.

Da' Rick Rogers led all receivers with six catches for 120 yards. Fellow sophomore Justin Hunter added five grabs for 77 yards. Tight end Mychal Rivera caught two passes for 44 yards and Matt Milton added two grabs for 34 yards.

Rogers caught a touchdown pass to cap the first possession, and Hunter caught one moments later. Rivera caught two before the day was done.

Bray singled out Rivera, noting that "Mike's running routes good, pushing off the ball and getting open."

For the offense, vengeance was sweet and plentiful.

"Last scrimmage we started terrible," Milton noted. "We were down. But today Da'Rick scored right off the bat, then Justin scored right off the bat.... Once we start fast it's hard to slow us down."

Bray said Chaney's pre-game pep talk to the offense was pretty simple:

"He said, 'Just relax, let it come to you. Try to keep the energy going and keep 'em in and out of the huddle.'"

The coaching staff has put a lot bigger mental workload on Bray this spring than he had to handle as a true freshman last fall. Sometimes the load gets a little too heavy. Apparently, last Saturday's initial scrimmage was one of those times. This time Chaney told Bray to quit thinking so much and rely more on his instincts.

"He said, 'Let's go back to the backyard football,'" Bray recalled.

Clearly, "backyard football" worked pretty well.

FOR THE DEFENSE: Rod Wilks recorded 3 tackles and a 90-yard interception return for touchdown. Fellow safety Dontavis Sapp added 3 stops, 3 pass breakups, a hurry and a 55-yard pick six. Tackle Montori Hughes also intercepted a pass. Linebacker Shane Reveiz led with 9 stops, 1 tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. Austin Johnson added 6 stops, safety Brent Brewer 5 stops, a forced fumble and a hurry. Nose guard Daniel Hood also contributed 5 tackles. Linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and tackle Rae Sykes recorded a sack each.


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