Vols Shut Out MTSU on Homecoming
BY DREW EDWARDS
KNOXVILLE -- Heading
into Saturday's homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State,
Tennessee hadn't made a visit to the end zone -- checkerboard or
otherwise -- in more than two games.
The Vols snapped a
10-quarter touchdown drought on their second possession and kept on
scoring, defeating the Blue Raiders 24-0 Saturday night in Neyland
The Vols (4-5) scored all 24 of their points in the
first half, and could have added more had they converted a pair of
fourth-down tries deep in MTSU territory in the second half.
good to get a win. It's been a long time," said UT coach Derek Dooley,
whose team snapped a four-game losing streak. "Really proud of how the
team came out in the first half. "The second half, we just tried to
shrink the game and wanted to try to run the ball a little bit better.
We did what we needed to do to win the game, and that's what matters."
24 points are more than it scored in its previous three games combined
against LSU, Alabama and South Carolina, and just four shy of its total
output in October.
But the started scoring early on Saturday night.
Johnson intercepted Logan Kilgore's third pass of the game on the Blue
Raiders' second possession and returned it to the MTSU 7. Three plays
later, Tauren Poole scored his first touchdown -- and the Vols' --
since UT's loss to top-ranked LSU on Oct. 15.
The points piled up quickly the rest of the half.
Rogers, who finished with 137 yards receiving on nine catches, scored
on a 47-yard touchdown pass which ended an 89-yard drive and gave UT a
14-0 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter.
The Vols' next
score came on another lengthy drive, which lasted nearly 8 minutes and
covered 86 yards in 15 plays. Poole's 7-yard run gave UT a 21-0 lead
midway through the quarter, and gave the senior his first
multi-touchdown game of 2011 and the fourth of his career.
Tennessee added one more score just before halftime, again helped by another turnover.
Gordon picked off Jeff Murphy's pass with less than a minute before
halftime, and quarterback Justin Worley guided the Vols 38 yards to the
MTSU 3-yard line in just 37 seconds.
Derrick Brodus, who subbed
for an injured Michael Palardy on kickoffs and place kicks, connected
on a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give Tennessee a 24-0 lead
After backup kicker Chip Rhome injured his leg in
warmups, Brodus was rushed to the stadium less than an hour before
kickoff. He connected on all three of his extra point tries in addition
to the field goal.
That wasn't the only unexpected sight on Saturday, either.
gave walk-on running back Jaron Toney 19 carries, which went for a
team-best 52 yards. Poole finished with 13 yards on 11 carries.
Backup tailback Marlin Walls took several direct snaps, all in an effort to spark the Vols' struggling run game.
wanted to see Jaron Toney. We're searching in the run game," Dooley
said. We're not lighting it up running the ball. I wanted to see Jaron.
We wanted to play a little 'Wildcat.' We're searching, guys. We're just
not very good running the ball."
That improved some Saturday. Tennessee ran for 120 yards but still averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.
Worley's improvement was much more pronounced.
making his first start a week ago in the Vols' loss to South Carolina,
the true freshman completed 23 of his 32 passes for 291 yards, 202 of
which came in the first half, and his first career touchdown.
proud of him," Dooley said of Worley. "He didn't let last week's
performance affect him. He played like the guy we signed and like we
thought he could."
Worley, who had two interceptions last week, said he felt much more calm in his second career start.
"Tonight, I tried to stay calm and not let my nerves get to me," he said. "I didn't feel a whole lot tonight."
made sure MTSU didn't score at all, and limited the Blue Raiders (2-6)
to just 230 yards of total offense. The shutout is Tennessee's first
since a 50-0 victory over UT-Martin in last year's season opener.
good. It's always nice to get a 'W,' no matter who your opponent is,"
said Johnson, who led the Vols with seven tackles. "Shutting them out
was good for us."
The Vols travel to face Arkansas next Saturday
still searching for their first SEC win. Kickoff time will be announced
as early as Sunday.
After a tough October, though, Dooley was glad to see his team come away smiling after a victory.
it feels good. When you lose and keep losing, it just pulls on your
spirit," Dooley said. "You start questioning everything. You start
doubting everything. Nothing heals like a good win. I'm proud of the