Tennessee Vols Football: Quarter-Season Awards
While it's somewhat depressing that the first quarter of the season is done, it is exciting that three-quarters of it remains.
We may not know as much about the Vols as we'd like to know three weeks in, but everything we've learned to this point has created a decent picture of what the rest of 2011 holds for this Tennessee team.
Rather than preview what is to come, however, I've decided to recap the season's first quarter. It has been a mixed bag so far. There have been just as many shining moments as not-so-shining moments for this young team on this young season.
Here's the best and worst of Tennessee's first quarter of 2011.
Best Fashion Statement
When head coach Derek Dooley came out in the orange pants many were equal parts surprised and horrified. Yes, they are ugly. No, they're still not quite Tennessee orange despite repeated efforts at dying them.
Dooley talked of his father, Vince, wearing red pants when the Georgia legend was winning championships as the head coach of the 'Dawgs. But, man, was this fashion statement a proud moment for Vols fans or what!
I'd be willing to bet the last guy (the one currently at Southern Cal) would have never donned these hideously beautiful slacks.
Best Touchdown Vulture
True freshman Marlin Lane has shown a few flashes of being a quality SEC back so far this season. He's still a backup, but when called on in the red zone, he's taken advantage of his pass-heavy offense's ability to get near the goal line with a couple of short touchdown runs (one 2-yard TD run and one 1-yard TD run).
He's also adept at catching the short pass out of the backfield for a pair of receiving touchdowns (nine and eight yard TD receptions, respectively).
Following a huge goal line stand in the third quarter—holding Cincinnati to three points--Tennessee methodically moved the ball downfield in a six-minute, 71-yard drive that left no doubt about the outcome of game number two.
The resulting touchdown put the Vols up 42-17 and assured Tennessee of its first regular season victory over a BCS-conference program since 2006.
Best Single-Game Performance
Tyler Bray was unconscious versus Cincinnati. The sophmore threw for 405 yards on 34 of 41 passes and tallied four touchdowns on the day.
He also surpassed Peyton Manning's record of seven consecutive games with multiple touchdowns thrown in that game, a streak that was continued at Florida last week as well.
Da'Rick Rogers catch in the endzone as two Cincinnati defensive backs hit him from each side, knocking his helmet off, was one of the most remarkable plays of the young season for Tennessee.
Rogers wasn't even shaken up on the play.
Worst Performance in a Big Game
Tennessee's offensive line was pretty much atrocious in last weekend's Florida game. The unit gave up three sacks, had problems snapping the ball consistently, and was charged with the bulk of the responsibility for the Vols ending up with minus-nine yards rushing in the game.
Tyler Bray led the Vols as far as he could last Saturday, but the sophomore quarterback's interception on a terrible throw right into the hands of defensive back Josh Evans on the first play of the second half led to Florida going up 23-7 a few plays later.
Two minutes later, the Gators went up 30-7. The hole was just way too big for the Vols to complete the comeback.
Tennessee's special teams was anything but special last weekend. A blocked punt, missed field goal, and repeated short kickoffs made this the worst performance by a Vols kicking unit in years.
Punt and kickoff coverage wasn't terrible, but the return game is still nothing special for the Vols either.
Worst Play Call
Derek Dooley went for two after scoring a touchdown to make it a 17 point game late in the third quarter.
Had he gone for one the Vols would have been within two touchdowns and two two-point conversions of tying the game. The call was definitely a head-scratcher and ultimately kept the Vols from covering the 9.5-point spread in the 33-23 loss.
The Vols top playmaker and track star Justin Hunter went down just five minutes into the game at Florida last week.
The Vols offensive game plan likely centered around the 6-foot-4 receiver. The injury immediately sent the young Vols into a tizzy and the game was out of hand early.
The injury was later revealed to be a torn ACL causing Hunter to miss the remainder of the season.