Notebook: Bray's brilliance

One player wasn't perfect in Tennessee's 45-23 Game 2 blowout of Cincinnati but he was awfully close.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray set a program record (minimum 30 attempts) by connecting on 82.9 percent of his passes vs. the Bearcats. The old record of 77.5 percent was set by Peyton Manning vs. Georgia in 1997.

Bray completed his first eight attempts on Saturday and finished the afternoon 34 of 41. With 405 passing yards, he became the second QB in program history to crack the 400-yard barrier. Manning threw for 523 vs. Kentucky in 1997.

Further underscoring Bray's brilliance on Saturday was the fact he threw four touchdown passes without being sacked or intercepted. He even scored his first career touchdown on a quarterback sneak. That performance should warrant some National Player of the Week consideration.

Bray's first seven college starts have produced a 6-1 record and an average of 320.6 passing yards per game. Counting his relief performance at South Carolina last October, he has posted eight consecutive games with multiple-touchdown passes, a school record.


With 10 catches and 156 receiving yards on Saturday, Justin Hunter now has 16 receptions and 302 yards through two games. He is on pace to post 96 catches and 1,812 yards in the Vols' 12-game regular season, shattering the school record in each category. Marcus Nash set the program mark for single-season catches with 76 in 1977 and Robert Meachem established the yardage mark with 1,298 in 2006.

Da' Rick Rogers, another sophomore receiver, is off to a great start, as well. His 10-catch, 100-yard performance on Saturday gives him 15 receptions and 200 yards through the first two games. He is on pace to record 90 catches and 1,200 yards this season.

Wide receiver Justin Hunter has 302 yards in just two games.
(Danny Parker/

Tailback Tauren Poole also posted a 100-yard day vs. Cincinnati, parlaying 21 carries into 101 rushing yards. Saturday marked the fifth time in school history that Tennessee had two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game.


Incredibly, Tennessee's 2-0 start is its first since 2006. The Vols beat California 35-18 and Air Force 31-30 that fall before losing 20-21 to Florida in Game 3 and eventually finishing 9-4.

Tennessee has started 3-0 just three times in the past 10 years. The Vols beat Syracuse 33-9, Arkansas 13-3 and LSU 26-18 in 2001, then fell 24-26 to Georgia in Game 4. They beat Fresno State 24-6, Marshall 34-24, Florida 24-10 and South Carolina 23-20 (OT) in 2003 before losing 21-28 at Auburn in Game 5. The Big Orange also started 3-0 in 2004, beating UNLV 42-17, Florida 30-28 and Louisiana Tech 42-17 before bowing 10-34 to Auburn in Game 4.


Tennessee won the pre-game coin toss Saturday, snapping a six-game losing streak in that category. The Vols stand just 3-12 in coin flips under Derek Dooley. After winning Saturday's toss, Tennessee deferred and got the ball first in the second half. The Vols promptly launched a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown march that padded their lead to 35-14.


Sophomore kickoff specialist Michael Palardy recorded two touchbacks vs. Cincinnati, giving him three for the season. Palardy did not manage a single touchback in 45 kickoffs last season. Tennessee's lone touchback of 2010 was recorded by Chad Cunningham.


Palardy also executed a textbook onsides kick Saturday, hitting the top of the ball to make it dribble slowly forward, running alongside it and recovering it himself once it traveled the required 10 yards. Tennessee then drove 59 yards for a first-quarter touchdown that produced a 14-7 lead. Tennessee's previous onside kick occurred at Alabama in 2009, and it also was successful. Denarius Moore recovered that one, and the Vols quickly advanced into scoring position only to have a potential game-winning field goal by Daniel Lincoln blocked.


Tennessee fumbled six times in Game 1 without losing a single one. The law of averages caught up with the Vols in Game 2, however, as they fumbled twice and lost both. Second-team tailback Marlin Lane coughed up a fumble at Cincinnati's 28-yard line in the first quarter and third-team tailback Rajion Neal lost one at the Vol 22-yard line in the final quarter.


Tennessee recorded 20 first downs before halftime and 14 afterwards. The 34 total first downs fell just one short of the single-game program record of 35 set in the 1997 game vs. Georgia, the same outing in which Manning completed 77.5 percent of his passes.

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