Tyler Bray and the Vols Bury Buffalo
Tennessee made quick work against a vastly outmatched Buffalo Bulls squad for an easy win on a sunny, breezy autumn afternoon at home, in front of an announced attendance that was below 90,000 for the first time in what must be decades. This was pretty much what was needed following the loss in Gainesville – a cupcake opponent after an off week.
The talk over the past two weeks was the Vols’ inept ground game…
Well, Tennessee was able to eclipse Stony Brook’s 184 yards rushing against the Bulls (on 51 carries) earlier this season. Today, the Vols ran for 187 yards on 44 carries, lead by senior Tauren Poole (17/101 yards) who notched his eighth 100-yard game of his career. But the Vols wouldn’t have edged out Stoney Brook’s rushing effort had it not been for Vol punter Matt Darr who in the last quarter returned his own blocked punt for 18 yards to keep a late Tennessee drive alive.
All in all, the run game looked improved in the respect that it was more aggressive. Tauren Poole hit gaps with more speed and commitment, and there was a better look on the lateral run game with sweeps and end-arounds. Poole and Raijon Neal both had carries of 20 yards or more to give the Vols a refreshing 5+ yards per rush for the afternoon. The OL pushed very convincingly against an outmanned Buffalo defensive front.
It felt good to whip an opponent up front for a change.
But, it was against Buffalo, a team that is likely going back the the MAC for another disappointing conference campaign.
This win was once again mostly about Tyler Bray, who continues to pile up impressive numbers every week. With a receiver-by-committee approach, Bray found eight different pass catchers for 21 completions from 31 attempts, resulting in 342 yards and 4 TDs (no INTs). He now has had at least two TD passes in 10 consecutive games, continuing to extend the school record that he broke against Cincinnati.
Sophomore Vol receiver Da’Rick Rogers stepped up to fill injured Justin Hunter’s shoes by collecting seven receptions for 180 yards and 2 TDs, including a 57-yard reception in the first half to push the Vols into the red zone where Tennessee was 5-for-5 in conversions in the opening half (4 TDs and a FG).
Others who got into the pass receiving party included DeAnthony Arnett, the freshman from Saginaw, Michigan, who corralled three catches, two of them for his first TDs as a Volunteer. But, there were too many drops by the home team, one of which was performed by TE Michael Rivera in the end zone that resulted in the Vols’ only non-TD from red zone opportunities in the first half.
The Vols finished the afternoon 7-for-7 in red zone opportunities.
The game was won early on exceptional first- and third-down performances by Bray and Co. On the opening Vol drive of the afternoon, Tennessee made first downs on the first two first-down situations. The third first down play resulted in a 20-yard end run by Raijon Neal for the Vols first TD.
On third down situations in the first half, the Big Orange made 6 first downs and a TD. A perfect 3-down conversion tally was ruined by Rivera’s drop in the checkerboards. At the end of the day, the Vols were 12-for-16 on third down conversions, leading to a 62% conversion rate for the season.
With a couple of exceptions, the kicking game was atrocious, continuing a special teams train wreck that is becoming a very bad habit, one that is bound to lose us a game if not corrected.
The Tennessee defense only allowed 10 points, 7 coming on a 68-yard run by the Buffalo QB straight up the gut (only 80 other yards rushing for the Bulls). The Vols also allowd only 10 first downs, and held the Bulls to 3-13 and 0-3 on third and fourth down conversions. The three starting LBs led the way for Vol tackles, and seven tackles were for a loss.
All in all, a very handsome performance by the Orange defense. Only 2 penalties by the Vols is also a notable stat.
A win is always something to celebrate. We’re now 3-0 at home, expected against the likes of Montana, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. But next week, Big Boy Football returns as the Georgia Bulldogs come to Neyland Stadium, followed by a visit from the Number One LSU Tigers.
The gun barrel is soon to arrive.
NorCalVol wins the pick’ums for the week, nailing the 31-point spread. However, Orangebobber’s pick of 42-10 looks more accurate, and was the closest to the points total.