Moore: Vol win is a 'keeper'

InsideTennessee gives you the stories behind the stories. Check out this insightful column examining the importance of quarterback runs in the Vols' most recent victory:

After a season and a half spent clamoring for more quarterback keepers, Tennessee fans got their wish Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Result: Two touchdown runs by Justin Worley, one by Nathan Peterman and a 45-10 defeat of Chattanooga.

In case you’re wondering: The last time Tennessee got three rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position in a single game was Oct. 9, 1999, when Tee Martin ran for three against Georgia.

It's worth noting that Tennessee's most recent national championship (1998) came with a mobile quarterback (Martin) running the offense. It's also worth noting that Tennessee's highest-scoring offense ever (40.3 points per game in 1993) was led by another mobile QB (Heath Shuler).

No one is going to mistake Worley and Peterman for Martin and Shuler but even a mild threat of a quarterback keeper is better than no threat at all. Saturday's game with Chattanooga was just another reminder of this fact.

Worley’s first score came on an eight-yard run around right tackle that bumped the lead to 17-0 in the second quarter. The Mocs were shocked; Tennessee’s fans were more so. They view Worley as a reluctant runner, even when opposing defenses seem vulnerable to a simple keeper.

Worley scored his second TD of the afternoon late in the third quarter. Keeping around left end, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder met a tackler just shy of the goal line and drove him into the end zone as the lead swelled to 38-3. It was downright Tebow-esque.

Modest by nature, Worley downplayed his second score.

“I’d never run the ball a whole lot in my career,” he said. “I was just trying to make a play. The guy bounced off of me, and the rest of it was what it was.”

Asked how his teammates reacted to seeing him crash into the end zone for a second touchdown, Worley smiled.

“I got a lot of crap from them; I’ll tell you that,” he quipped.

It was good-natured crap, though. Like Tennessee fans, Tennessee teammates realize that an occasional run by Worley gives an added dimension to a Vol offense that is severely limited due to an inexperienced offensive line. Worley realizes it, too.

“Any way I can help the team I’d like to, whether it’s rushing or throwing,” the senior quarterback said. “To be able to get those two (TDs) on the ground was big for me.”

In addition to his scoring runs, Worley completed 19 of 24 passes for 198 yards and three more touchdowns before taking a seat on the bench. Backup Nathan Peterman promptly rambled 14 yards on a nifty quarterback draw to conclude the game’s scoring in the final quarter.

“I was happy for Nate,” Worley said. “Nate got his first career touchdown, and I was happy to see it.”

Discounting sacks, Worley ran eight times for 34 yards, an average of 4.25 per carry, and Peterman carried four times for 32 yards, an average of 8.0 per rush.

Despite the ever-increasing grumbling from Vol Nation, Worley said the rash of quarterback runs on Saturday came in response to Chattanooga’s defensive ends, not Tennessee’s fans.

“We knew going into this week that their defensive ends were pretty aggressive going downhill to take away the running backs and (the Mocs) picked up the run well with safeties,” Worley said. “Their eyes were always inside on the running backs, so I thought if I pulled it I could get outside and maybe confuse ‘em a little bit with me running the ball. That’s how it happened.”

No matter how it happened, Vol Nation is glad it happened. Simply put, the mere threat of a quarterback keeper is an absolute godsend for an offense that clearly needs all the help it can get.

Butch Jones postgame presser


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