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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Chance for Vols to salvage year rests on final 2 games

Thursday, November 17, 2011

T-G File Photo by Chris Siers Tyler Bray reported back to practice this week after being sidelined due to a broken thumb he sustained against Georgia on Oct. 8.
With two games left on the schedule, it appears a losing season is all but inevitable for the 2011-2012 season for the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols have struggled all year in the SEC, posting an 0-6 record in the conference so far.

Tennessee has a chance to rise to .500 on the season if the Volunteers can fend off in-state rival Vanderbilt and follow up with a win over Kentucky, both of which are also struggling this season.

One of the biggest problems for the Vols is the lack of a leader on the field, especially since starting quarterback Tyler Bray went down against Georgia with a broken thumb, an injury which has left him sidelined since Oct. 8.

Finding a QB

After losing his starting quarterback, head coach Derek Dooley faced a tough task of finding a suitable replacement to run the offense and lead the team on the field.

First, Dooley turned to senior Matt Simms, who was less than stellar in his only two starts against Alabama and LSU.

Against LSU and Alabama, Simms only racked about 200 yards passing between the two games, which is well below the productivity levels of where Bray was at before his injury.

Freshman starter

After the two dismal starts by Simms, Dooley opted to start true freshman Justin Worley against South Carolina, MTSU and then Arkansas.

Against South Carolina, things appeared to be the usual woes for the Volunteer offense, with Worley only able to pile up about 100 yards passing and no touchdowns.

Worley, however, turned things around against MTSU, tossing the ball for nearly 300 yards, 0 INTs and one TD.

But a new week brought about another SEC foe, and another tough game for the Vols.

The No. 6 Razorbacks had little trouble overcoming the Vols and were able to chalk up a 49-7 victory.


So here we are nearing the end of the season, and things still look grim for the Vols without that true leader on the field.

But perhaps a bit of good news broke this week from Knoxville--Bray hit the practice field. Bray back in a practice jersey could be the best news the Vols have had since early October.

They will certainly have their hands full against the Vanderbilt defense this weekend.

Just last week, Commodore QB Jordan Rodgers threw for over 200 yards and connecting for a pair of TDs to lead Vandy to a big 38-7 win over Kentucky.

If Tennessee wants to snap its SEC losing streak, the Volunteer defense will have to shut down Rodgers' pass attack on defense.

Offense a must

On offense, Tauren Poole will need to jump start the Vols' run game while the quarterback, whether it be Bray or Worley at the helm, looks to Da'Rick Rogers for the aerial assault.

In the first five games of the season, Bray established himself as the team leader and piled up over 1,500 yards and threw for 14 touchdowns.

It's possible for Tennessee to salvage the final two games of the year and post a .500 season. It's going to be a task for the Vols, especially against a team like Vandy, who is nearly a mirror image of this year's Volunteer squad.

But if Bray gets back on the field, good things are to come for Volunteer fans in the home stretch of this season.

Chris Siers is the sports editor for the Times-Gazette. Email him at sports@t-g.com.

Chris Siers
The Extra Point
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette.

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