Tennessee’s offense has struggled since Tyler Bray’s injury against Georgia on Oct. 8, but against eighth-ranked Arkansas Saturday night in Fayetteville, the Volunteers racked up 376 yards of total offense.
Still, the end result was the same as it’s been all year, as UT (4-6, 0-6 SEC) failed to convert yards into points and gave up highlight-reel plays to the Razorbacks (9-1, 5-1) in a 49-7 loss at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“We had a lot of opportunities the first three quarters to try and match them a little bit,” Vols coach Derek Dooley said. “I think we were knocking on the door about four or five times and we didn’t convert and we gave up a lot of big plays.”
The first big play came late in the first quarter with Arkansas already leading 7-0. Arkansas receiver and return specialist Joe Adams fielded a Matt Darr punt, ran backwards and broke multiple UT tackles en route to a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The Razorbacks would extend their lead to 21-0 after running back Dennis Johnson bounced off UT defenders and raced 71 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
UT answered with a 5-play, 77-yard scoring drive, topped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by sophomore Rajion Neal.
After Arkansas missed a 40-yard field goal, the Vols put together a 14-play, 72-yard drive that got them down to the Razorbacks’ 5-yard line. Instead of putting points on the board, freshman quarterback Justin Worley was intercepted by Arkansas’ Tramain Thomas at the goal line.
“DeAnthony (Arnett) ran a great route,” Worley said. “I got flushed out of the pocket a little bit so my timing got thrown off, and I put the ball where it should’ve been if my timing was on time and the safety made a good play.”
Worley finished 15-of-29 for 208 yards and the interception before being replaced by senior Matt Simms in the fourth quarter.
“Justin was struggling,” Dooley said. “(He) was making some bad decisions, wasn’t in rhythm.”
Arkansas’ offense was certainly in rhythm, racking up 499 yards of total offense and outscoring UT 28-0 in the second half. Hogs quarterback Tyler Wilson was 16-of-26 for 226 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Johnson and the rest of Arkansas’ stable of running backs combined for 254 yards on the ground.
“Because they are so explosive throwing the ball, you have to loosen up a little bit,” Dooley said.
For the Vols, sophomore wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers was the team’s leading receiver with five receptions for 106 yards, including a 48-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. Rogers’ 15-yard reception on a 4th-and-3 on UT’s opening drive kept the possession alive, but the Vols couldn’t convert a fake field goal.
“We were against the wind, it was a 42-yarder on the right hash,” Dooley said. “I just thought we could execute it. I wasn’t 100 percent confident into that wind. That wind was pretty rough out there.”
The loss drops the Vols to 0-6 in conference play for the first time in school history and makes UT’s remaining two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky must-wins if the team wants to play in a bowl game.
“There’s no additional pressure,” Dooley said. “We’re going to get defined by how we play the next two weeks. We play like crap and we’ll go down as a bad football team. If we play good, we’ll go down as a team that fought to the end and was able to pull it out.”