Less than a week ago, Vols fans were walking around almost embarrassed regarding the bounty of riches Tennessee possessed at the receiver positions. That changed on Thursday morning when it was announced that junior receiver Da’Rick Rogers was suspended indefinitely due to a violation(s) of team rules. Dooley recently commented that it was “recent events” that led to the decision for suspension. It appears likely that Rogers will never play in an orange jersey again, but nothing has been announced as final at this moment. [UPDATE: It appears that Rogers will transfer to Tennessee Tech.]
Losing a top player is always a tough thing to deal with (note the injuries to Justin Hunter and then Tyler Bray in 2011). But when that player is the ONLY player at a skilled position that has ANY semblance of SIGNIFICANT experience – plus having led the SEC last season with 67 receptions and 1,040 receiving yards – it causes observers to rethink their predicted W-L balance for the upcoming season.
But there is the chemistry factor.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley hosted a session for the media on Tuesday morning in Knoxville. It was quite the feel-good festival on nearly the 40th day since his last public commentary following the disaster in Lexington. He obviously had a lot of ground to cover, and not just because of the amount of time that has elapsed since his last appearance. A lot has happened since he walked out of Commonwealth Stadium.
Tennessee’s best wide receiver not named Justin Hunter or Da’Rick Rogers wants out of Knoxville. DeAnthony Arnett, the Saginaw, Michigan native who just finished his freshman season with the Vols, is petitioning the court of public opinion to be released from his scholarship so that he can play in his native state of Michigan. Among other outlets, Mr. Arnett chose GoBlueWolverine the Magazine to write his public petition. His penned plea finished with the following…
Therefore as a student athlete I feel coach Dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a BCS level and neglecting the fact my father is severely ill.
As a Wildcat receiver for four years, senior Matt Roark did little. As Kentucky’s quarterback for a single afternoon, he did what numerous Wildcat quarterbacks could not do for more than a quarter century — beat Tennessee. Matt Roark is now a legend in the annals of Kentucky Wildcat football. His opponents on Saturday are now infamous, having lost their seventh conference game this season, the most conference losses in the annals of Tennessee Volunteer football.
Archibald Barns returned a Tyler Bray pass 100 yards for a touchdown. Eric Gordon returned a Jordan Rogers pass 90 yards for a touchdown.
That’s the kind of night it was at Neyland Stadium in one of the most memorable Tennessee-Vanderbilt games in a generation or more.
Looking for something to build on, Derek Dooley wasn’t afraid to put it on the shoulders of freshman QB Justin Worley. Delivering passes to 9 different receivers, Worley racked up 291 passing on a 23-for-33 performance. Da’Rick Rogers was Worley’s favorite target, getting 9 grabs for 137 yards, including a 47-yard TD strike.
Obvious kudos go to the defense for the shutout, only the third since 2003 (the last being last year’s 50-0 opener against UT-Martin), and the first on Homecoming since the blanking of Okie State in 1995.
Concerns still rain down on the running game. Against a poor team, it was atrocious, with only 120 net yards on 45 carries. That’s a 2.7 yards per carry clip.
The most entertaining part of the evening was the 6:10 pm call to a frat house to round up a place kicker in a pinch.
Down 7-3 to begin that Dreaded Third Quarter, Tennessee nearly exorcised all those early second half demons. But early in the third quarter, when Prentiss Waggner’s run — after his pass interception near the Vol 45 yard — ended just two yards shy of the goal line, it eerily didn’t seem like the Big Orange would capitalize. A three-yard rushing loss was followed by freshman Vol QB Justin Worley throwing his first collegiate interception.
It was one of multiple opportunities lost.