published Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Tennessee Vols fight but fall to Gamecocks, 14-3

UT quarterback Justin Worley calls a play during the first quarter against South Carolina.
UT quarterback Justin Worley calls a play during the first quarter against South Carolina.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — For the first time in what must seem like months, Tennessee found itself riding some momentum in a third quarter.

One diving interception and one long, grueling drive later, South Carolina had sucked the life from the upstart Volunteers.

The Gamecocks, trying to stay in control of their own destiny in the race for the Southeastern Conference’s East Division title, went on a 20-play drive that ate up more than 11 minutes of the third quarter in a 14-3 win in front of 96,665 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

The Vols (3-5, 0-5) had just 186 yards of offense for the game and managed just 58 in the second half.

“We fought them hard, but we’re just a mess on offense,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “Can’t run, struggled to throw it. I don’t know what else you can defensively. For the most part, we couldn’t get anything on offense. It was a real struggle.”

UT, which is last in the SEC in turnovers, forced three in the game, all inside the South Carolina 30-yard line. Reserve linebacker John Propst recovered a muffed punt by Ace Sanders at the UT 18 that led to a field goal.

The Vols spoiled Prentiss Waggner’s interception-and-return and freshman linebacker A.J. Johnson’s recovery of a fumble forced by freshman Brian Randolph with interceptions of true freshman quarterback Justin Worley, who was making the first start of his career.

Worley, who finished 10-of-26 passing for 105 yards, missed on a potential touchdown to Da’Rick Rogers in the end zone in the first quarter, and Rogers dropped what would have been a touchdown in the second quarter on what might have been Worley’s best throw of the night.

“He had a tough day out there,” Dooley said. “Couple of interceptions in the red area [he’s] got to learn from. It’s hard. Struggled a little bit administratively, had to chop some timeouts.

“He’s making some nice throws, he made a couple of nice throws, and just wanted to try to get him a rhythm. We didn’t help him. He did some good things, and he struggled with some things, which I expected it to happen because ... it’s just his first time. He just hasn’t had the work.”

Worley’s first interception, after Waggner’s return set up UT at the Gamecocks’ 2, turned out to be the worst because of what ensued.

South Carolina (7-1, 5-1) drove 98 yards on 20 plays after safety D.J. Swearinger dove for a pickoff just outside of the end zone. The Gamecocks were a perfect 6-for-6 on third-down conversions in the possession, mostly because the longest was a third-and-5 in which quarterback Connor Shaw scored.

“We were trying to run the ball and Brandon [Wilds] kept picking up third-and-shorts,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “I’ve only had one other [20-play drive] in my life that long, and it happened right here in 1982, Duke University, we went from the same 1-yard line over there to this 1-yard line and killed the clock. We did it then in the fourth quarter.”

All but three of the plays in the drive were running plays, including 52 yards on 11 carries from true freshman tailback Wilds, who was effective running out of the shotgun.

“We were getting beat on first and second down,” UT linebacker Austin Johnson said. “It just put us in a bad position, and that’s our fault. We need to be better on first and second down.”

The Gamecocks lost star tailback Marcus Lattimore in their last game to a season-ending knee injury, but with the powerful straight-ahead running style of the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Wilds, South Carolina didn’t miss a beat. He ran for 137 yards on 28 carries after entering the game with just 13 carries this season, and Shaw added 64 yards on 16 runs.

“He’s a good back,” said Spurrier, who called a play-action pass on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter that resulted in Shaw’s 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rory Anderson.

“I mentioned coming in that he’s a good back. If we’ll block for him a little bit, he’ll make some yards. He did that, he can make yards, he runs forward, has good body lean and can break some tackles.”

While UT’s defense stiffened after that, the Vols’ offense could never make anything of it. Matt Simms, who started the last two games at quarterback after Tyler Bray broke his thumb against Georgia, replaced Worley with 10 minutes left in the game.

The senior completed five of his 12 throws, including a pair of fourth-down completions, but his fourth-down incompletion with 6:33 remaining effectively ended the game. Dooley refused to make any decision on his quarterback situation moving forward to next week’s home game against Middle Tennessee State.

“We’re struggling on offense. I don’t know any other way to say it,” Dooley said. “Execution’s bad, we make throwing and catching bad three weeks in a row. Got to find some answers. We’re just a different football team right now on offense, very different.”

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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jeffy01 said...

Vols are sad. Coach Dudley do right needs to go back to Division 2 where he belongs.

October 30, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
cannonball said...

How soon can we cut a deal with peyton??

October 30, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
rosebud said...

Fear not, faithful Vol fans. Even though the orange flags & shirts are safely hidden for now, they'll be out again next weekend, as UTK returns to glory! They'll play a team more on their own level (MTSU) instead of one of those mean ol' SEC teams. Just wait: soon Tyler Bray will be back, playing against Kentucky (and next year, Georgia State, Akron & Troy!), piling up huge stats.

Let's see: UTK has the finest facilities in the conference. How much is that, per SEC win? Oh wait..they don't have any.

October 30, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I don't understand why we MUST have instant success after the past 4 years of termoil under 3 different coaches with 4 different styles of coaching. The team has struggled with new offensive/defensive styles/coaches. It's not easy learning new routines every year.

Phil Fulmer led Tennessee to it's greatest success in MANY years and yet some fans were calling for his head at every downturn. Well, you got your wish you "fair weather" fans and look what we got...a sorry low-down lying cheating scumbag who PROMISED he was here to stay and bring Tennessee back to greatness. And when he left after 1 year taking his father and good ol' boy Ed with him (liars all)what did we get in return?

We got a decent man (like Phil) who is struggling with not-so-great assistant coaches and not-as-tallented as we thought players. And here you are calling for HIS head. It's not easy to recruit tallented players/asst. coaches when THEY ALL want to play and coach for an Alabama/Florida/LSU.

It will take more than 2 years to build up steam again and be able to compete. Every team has down years but there are only so many coaches to go around who can create miracles in 2 years...we can do it just may take a little longer. I have faith in Dooley and am willing to give him more times to get the job done.

A Peyton Manning only comes along once in a lifetime and WE got him and he SPOILED us. We can't expect ALL players to be another Peyton Manning.

I,too,wish he could/would come back to Tennessee but who says he wants too? He sure as heck doesn't need/want the money.

October 30, 2011 at 1:57 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Dooley has a 26-32 record as a head coach with almost 60 games under his belt. Why would you think he will all of a sudden become a winning coach ? "you are what your record is" . . . . . . .Dooley will always be a below or just barely over a .500 coach.. . ..sure he will run a clean program, blah, blah. . . . But he will never win big at UTK

October 30, 2011 at 3:36 p.m.
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