KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley called two fake punts that worked last season, but the University of Tennessee football coach pulled something new out of his special-teams bag of tricks Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore kicker Michael Palardy perfectly executed an onside kick to himself early in the first quarter of the Volunteers' 45-23 home win against Cincinnati, and though the trick didn't have a big impact in the rest of the game, it accomplished its goal.
"We go into every game with stuff to try to generate some plays on special teams," Dooley said. "We've done a pretty decent job in the last year and this year. It was great execution. We felt like we had a chance.
"I just wanted to keep a little momentum going, and it worked, so that was a good way to flip the momentum."
The Vols had answered a 65-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Pead with Marlin Lane's 2-yard score when Palardy tapped the ball off the tee, hovered over it and pounced on it after it went 10 yards. UT capitalized on the ensuing drive when Tyler Bray passed to Justin Hunter for a 33-yard touchdown.
Palardy, who had a first-down run on a fake punt against Kentucky last season, said it's a play the Vols have practiced going back to last season.
"We scheme it up to where it looks like a normal kickoff," said the sophomore, who also sent two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. "We saw the opening there and the chance was there. I think when your head coach is the one that calls the play and he's confident that it's going to work, you have to prove him right. You have to execute, and that's what we did."
Fourth-year junior Ben Bartholomew started and played most of the game at fullback instead of sophomore Channing Fugate. Bartholomew had played in just seven games entering the season, and he redshirted last year -- his third year of the program.
Fugate is the normal starter, but Bartholomew practiced his way into a start and caught a pass for 8 yards.
"He's earned it," Dooley said. "He's working hard and he's playing good. We felt like Channing needed to play a little bit better, so we put Bart in and we'll see how he did."
Starting left tackle Dallas Thomas hurt his right knee on the extra-point attempt following UT's final touchdown late in the third quarter and did not return. True freshman Marcus Jackson entered the game at left guard, shifting Alex Bullard out to Thomas' spot at tackle.
Bullard is capable of playing every spot on the line, but the Vols need Thomas for his experience and ability.
"I think he's going to be OK," Dooley said. "I hope [he is]. We start getting a little nervous if Dallas gets out at tackle."
Odds and ends
UT began the game in its five-defensive-back package, so freshman Brian Randolph started the game at free safety and Prentiss Waggner started as the nickel back. Daryl Vereen started the game as the Vols' nickel linebacker, but Dooley said he was "nicked up," so UT went with sophomore Dontavis Sapp, who had a sack and forced a fumble. ... Starting defensive end Ben Martin, who's coming off two ruptured Achilles' tendon injuries, left the game in the first half with a foot injury and did not return. ... Linebacker Austin Johnson and strong safety Brent Brewer led UT with six tackles each, and Jacques Smith and Curt Maggitt combined for one of UT's two sacks. ... Backup tailbacks Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal each lost a fumble.
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 ...