Tennessee 50 Memphis 14
06 Nov 2010 | Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium | 39,742Recap | Boxscore | Play-by-play | Drive Chart
One of the most fascinating art exhibits I’ve seen included several unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo in Florence. It’s one thing to see the finished product, but it’s quite another experience to see a piece of marble that has been only partially cut – one from which the human form is partially poking through the rawness of the native rock, showing the immense but still unrealized potential of the raw cut. It leaves one contemplating the possibilities.
Call me a dreamer, but that was the image that came to mind as the first half was coming to an end Saturday night in Memphis.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Bray became the first quarterback in Tennessee history to throw five touchdown passes in a half. He had already tied a school record for non-OT games. As I sat in front of my HDTV, coming to grips with my visionary metaphor, Bray was 17-of-28 for 308 yards. His five TD passes were to five different receivers: Tauren Poole, Justin Hunter, Denarius Moore, Da’Rick Rogers, and Gerald Jones.
It didn’t seem to matter that all of this was against a rather pitiful football team. Tennessee had played many pitiful teams in its past, but still, no Vol quarterback had ever done what I had just witnessed. None.
There were short swing passes, dumps out into the flats, zingers over the middle, soft tosses underneath the defenders, long flings downfield along either sideline. It seemed that we had suddenly enlisted ten receivers – practically everybody had an opportunity to catch a Bray Ball.
The impact of Tyler’s performance was perhaps best exemplified by senior receiver Gerald Jones, who was quoted in the post-game locker room as having said:
“Tyler made the game easy for us. He didn’t really make us have to make a hard catch or anything, he just makes the game easy. That’s his forte, that’s what he does. He kind of makes me wish I could start my whole Tennessee career over again and be a freshman and play under him for four years. I can’t, but he’s going to be a really good player if he keeps up what he’s doing and these receivers should be very happy to have him as their quarterback.”
Part of me had undescribable empathy for Jones and his classmates who have had to endure the most turbulent period in Tennessee football history. But who knows – perhaps this season can turn out to be one of the most gratifying in recent memory. If this bunch of rag-tag step-children can somehow manage to win out, the worst bowl draw ever may just be the most unexpected source of fulfillment.
Another source of empathy appeared in the third quarter. With the Vols leading by 40 points, Bray eventually achieved 19-of-33 for 325 yards. The Son of Phil Simms (I can’t seem to remember his first name anymore) came into the game to give the younger Bray a well-deserved opportunity to enjoy his accomplishments with teammates on the sidelines. The older Simms seemed to finally realize his days as a big-time college quarterback were all but over, barring injury to his competitor.
This game is not fair, just like life itself. Circumstances drive many outcomes. This outcome may be for the bigger cause – the beginning of the recovery of the Tennessee Volunteer football program.
A team is not made of one player. It is the collective. The Vols made 509 yards on offense, 398 of which were in the first half. They converted 9-of-15 third downs. After the first drive of the game ended on downs, the remaining possessions of the first half ended with a score. Tauren Poole rushed for 101 yards. Denarius Moore had 103 receiving.
Then there was the defense. Malik Jackson led the way with eight tackles; Jackson and Chris Walker had two sacks each. The Big Orange defense forced five turnovers – 3 INTs and 2 fumbles – the best total of the season.
Michael Palardy added three field goals.
The final three games are against teams who rank at the bottom of the conference in points allowed per game. Expect November to be a spectacular shootout, for there is a new gunslinger in town – a tall, skinny freshman from Kingsburg, California, who fears nothing, and has single-handedly changed the complexion of this season.