Nashville, Tenn- Starting quarterback Tyler Bray was benched by head coach Derek Dooley in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Bray got off to a slow start, completing just five of his 14 pass attempts for 65 yards in the first quarter and for only the second time since 1983, Vanderbilt took down long-time rival Tennessee by a score of 41-18. Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said Bray made some bad decisions early in the game.
“When he threw the interception [in the second quarter], we went with [sophomore quarterback] Justin [Worley] to try and settle him down,” said Dooley. “We put him back out in the third and not much really changed.”
Worley’s first drive ended after eight plays with an interception that was returned to Tennessee’s 10-yard line, but came back on his next drive and led the Vols on a ten play, 51-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Despite Worley’s relative success, Dooley said he had to give Bray another chance in the second half.
“I wanted to give Tyler [Bray] a chance to go back out there. He’s earned that as well as he’s played,” said Dooley.
Senior wide receiver Zach Rogers said it was a little “weird” to have Worley out there on the field instead of Bray.
“It was a little weird, but at the same time, I’m not gonna question the coaching at all. They thought that Worley gave them a better shot as they put him in,” said Rogers. “We just gotta go with what is out there and play with the eleven that are on the field.”
Against an offense that had scored at least 30 points in four out of its last five games, Vanderbilt held the Vols’ offense to just 10 points and 303 total yards. Dooley said you can’t take any credit away from what Vanderbilt was able to do on defense.
“They held us to ten points on offense. I never thought that would happen, not at all, “ said Dooley. “It was probably a combination of both [poor offense and good defense].”
Junior safety Byron Moore, who had a late interception, also had positive things to say about Vanderbilt.
“They came out and played their game. They believed the whole time and they fought hard,” said Moore. “Hats off to them.”
This loss means for the second year in a row, Tennessee will not be going to a bowl game. Rogers, a Nashville native, said this wasn’t the kind of legacy he wanted to leave at UT.
“It was very frustrating,” said Rogers. “That’s the nature of it and that’s football for you. We’ve got one more game and we’re gonna bounce back and go out with a win.”
Dooley said he hopes the team bounces back next week with a win as the Vols close out their season with a game against Kentucky.
“We have one more game left,” said Dooley. “I hope they go play for the seniors and go enjoy competing. That’s just what you do. We represent Tennessee and we didn’t do a very good job of that tonight.”