Vols maul Montana, 42-16

Once a 93-minute storm delay ended and allowed Tennessee's football opener to begin, the Vols showed they, too, could strike like lightning Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.

Tyler Bray's first two passes of the 2011 season were a 47-yard touchdown bomb to Da' Rick Rogers and an 81-yard TD strike to Justin Hunter. Up 14-0 after less than seven minutes, Tennessee parlayed the quick start into a 28-7 halftime lead and, ultimately, a 42-16 defeat of Montana.

Hunter finished with 146 receiving yards on six catches, Rogers 100 yards on five receptions.

"They both have big-play ability, and we're going to need a lot of big plays this year for us to win some games," head coach Derek Dooley said. "They showed you a little taste of what they can do. We've got to do a great job as coaches of putting 'em in position to catch a lot of balls."

Mission accomplished. But Tennessee's ground attack sputtered against the Grizzlies, an undersized bunch from the Football Championship Subdivision. Tauren Poole got 98 yards on 24 carries and freshman Marlin Lane added 35 on 10 rushes. As a team, however, the Vols averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 46 attempts.

"We were hoping we could run a little bit better but Montana did a good job," Dooley said. "They have all seniors and juniors on defense, and you could tell it. They did a lot of stuff – moving, blitzing, shifting - and they're physical."

Bray, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes in preseason scrimmages, found his rhythm when it counted. The slender sophomore completed 17 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He also managed the offense reasonably well.

"Tyler did a good job," Dooley said. "He was poised out there. There's still some plays he could've done better but, for the most part, he managed the game pretty well."

Defensively, Tennessee did a good job handling Montana's hurry-up offense. The Grizzlies got just two big gains out of their passing game (80 and 32 yards) and one big gain out of their ground game (27 yards).

"There were a lot of mistakes," Dooley noted, "but we settled in pretty good. There were times when we got a little edgy on the no-huddle – late lining up and stuff – but I thought we managed it a lot better than we did last year (vs. Oregon). For the most part, we gave up one play (the 80-yard TD pass)."

After a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, Tennessee recovered a fumbled punt by Peter Nguyen at the Grizzlies' 47-yard line. Bray handed to tailback Poole, who shoveled the ball back to Bray on a flea-flicker play. Bray then hit a wide-open Rogers 10 yards behind the nearest Montana defender, and the sophomore wideout scored with ease.

Tennessee's next possession saw Bray hit Hunter with a deep slant and Hunter turned on the jets, exploding past Montana's secondary on the final 65 yards of the 81-yard TD play.

"I'm really excited that Da'Rick, Tyler and me got it going in the first quarter," Hunter said.

Bray's stats at this point were pretty imposing: Two attempts, two completions, 118 yards and two touchdowns. He was just getting started, however.

A 32-yard completion to Hunter set up a nine-yard TD toss to freshman Marlin Lane that capped a 12-play, 96-yard march and widened the gap to 21-0 early in the second period.

Tennessee sustained another long drive on its next possession, going 76 yards in 13 plays. Poole got the touchdown on an eight-yard burst up the gut, bumping the lead to 28-0 with 4:06 left to halftime.

Montana broke through at this point. Jabian Sambrano beat Vol freshman cornerback Justin Coleman for an 80-yard catch/run that narrowed the gap to 28-7 with 3:49 left to the break.

"We gave up two big plays but one was terrible," Dooley said. "The guy ran right by us, and then you've got to tackle him. It was a freshman mistake."

The Grizzlies downed a punt at the Vol 1-yard line early in the third quarter, then tackled Poole for a safety on first down, whittling the deficit to 28-9. Tennessee answered immediately, however, as cornerback Art Evans picked off a Jordan Johnson pass and returned it 37 yards for a TD that boosted the lead to 35-9.

Tennessee added another score in the fourth quarter. After cornerback Marsalis Teague recovered a fumbled Montana pitch, the Vols motored 44 yards in six plays. Poole got 28 yards to the Grizzlies' 1 and Lane got the TD one play later, bumping the lead to 42-9 with 9:13 remaining.

Montana closed the scoring with a seven-yard run by Jordan Canada with 6:04 to go.

Tennessee had a chance to run up the score late but freshman tailback Tom Smith was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the Grizzlies' 1 with 2:21 to play.

Whereas the 2010 Vols came unglued after a lengthy weather delay vs. Oregon and ultimately lost 48-13, the 2011 team showed considerable focus and energy coming out of Saturday night's delay.

"It's all in how you manage it," Dooley said. "I think this is my sixth time in coaching where I've had a lightning delay, so it's like old hat to me. But the guys really managed it very well. They were relaxed. They shut down in the locker room and had a good frame (of mind) coming out, so I was pleased with them."

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