"It feels real good," senior receiver Quintin Hancock said when asked about trouncing UT's defense for a change. "The offense just came out today ready to play."
Indeed. Quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton (10 of 13 for 164 yards) and Nick Stephens (8 of 12 for 93 yards) carved up the defenses with surgical precision, directing three touchdown drives each. Still, sophomore tailback Tauren Poole stole the show, rushing eight times for 141 yards with TD bursts of 70 and 44 yards.
Although the attack unit showed a few flashes in spring scrimmages, no one could've envisioned the explosion that would unfold on Saturday. Junior defensive end Chris Walker said the offense has come a long way over the summer and deserves tons of credit.
"This offense is going to give a lot of people a lot of problems because of the motions and the shifts and the zone protections that they do," he said. "It's going to give a lot of people problems, especially when you've got a back like Montario (Hardesty) back there who can make any cut in the game."
Hardesty rushed just five times for 14 yards on this day, however, as the coaches chose to evaluate the younger backs. In addition to Poole's 141-yard effort, freshmen Bryce Brown (10 for 37) and David Oku (9 for 38) had their moments. Oku had a 40-yard TD burst nullified by a holding penalty.
The offensive tone was set early. Crompton marched the No. 1 offense 70 yards in five plays on the scrimmage's opening possession. The big plays were a 15-yard run by Hardesty, plus passes of 14 yards to Gerald Jones, 21 yards to tight end Luke Stocker and 20 yards to Poole for the TD.
"When you score on the first drive, that always helps the offense," Hancock said. "We just tried to keep that going during the scrimmage."
Stephens promptly marched the No. 2 offense 69 yards in 13 plays only to have the drive stall at the 1-foot line when linebacker Shane Reveiz stopped Oku on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The big plays on the drive were runs of 10 and 11 yards by Oku, a 10-yard run by Brown and a 16-yard completion to Brandon Warren due to a busted coverage.
Although Tennessee's No. 1 defense stopped Hardesty for a safety on the ensuing possession, the offenses quickly regained the momentum.
Stephens drove the No. 2 offense 50 yards in nine plays, Brown scoring on a counter option pitch from two yards out. The big play on the drive was a 29-yard pass to a wide-open Stocker.
Crompton wasted little time putting together his second scoring drive of the day. Starting at his 30-yard line, he threw a 68-yard strike to Gerald Jones, who was caught from behind by redshirt freshman safety Prentiss Waggner at the 2-yard line. After Hardesty was stopped in his tracks, Crompton threw a bullet to Warren in the right corner of the end zone to complete a three-play, 70-yard TD drive.
Incredibly, Stephens' next possession was even shorter. On first down he handed the ball to Poole, who exploded through a gaping hole at left tackle, juked one defender off his feet, then outran the secondary for a 70-yard touchdown.
The defenses regrouped a bit during halftime but not an awful lot.
Crompton directed the No. 1 offense to a couple of first downs before the defense stiffened. Stephens then guided the No. 2 offense 51 yards in six plays for another touchdown. The big plays were a diving catch by freshman wideout Marsalis Teague for a 21-yard gain and a 10-yard reverse by freshman wideout Nu'Keese Richardson. Oku got the last nine yards on runs of 7 and 2 yards.
Not to be outdone, Crompton led the No. 1 offense on a four-play, 70-yard march. Brown got 13 yards, then Crompton hit Jeff Cottam for 14. After Brown was stopped for no gain, Poole juked linebacker LaMarcus Thompson off his feet on a 44-yard touchdown burst.
Stephens, Crompton and Lamaison got one possession each the rest of the way but mustered just one first down among them - that coming on a pass-interference call against Janzen Jackson.
Although he was less than thrilled with the defensive performance, All-America safety Eric Berry gave a lot of credit to the Vols' offensive players.
"I really liked it," he said. "We worked with 'em all summer - did a lot of 7-on-7 and team drills on our own - and it's good to see it paying off. We're very excited about that."