Young Vol QB gets pat on back
Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 2:22 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Derek Dooley will feel better about lavishing Tennessee freshman quarterback Tyler Bray with praise after he proves he can repeat the kind of dominating performance he had against Memphis.
The coach doesn’t have a problem saying Bray did a good job, though.
Bray threw for five touchdowns and 325 yards in two and a half quarters against the Tigers in his first career start.
That earned him the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week award, the first weekly SEC honor for any Volunteers player this season.
“He had a phenomenal first half. It pains me a little bit to say he played well because he’s a freshman and it’s his first game, but he played really well,” Dooley said. “It was a decent evaluation for what lies ahead, but you have to keep it in perspective. It’s one game. One game has never made a quarterback, it’s never made a team, and it certainly won’t in this case.”
All of Bray’s touchdowns came in the first half, and his 308 yards before halftime was a single-half record for Tennessee.
Dooley tempered his praise in part because Bray’s domination came against the second-worst defense in the FBS and a secondary that was mismatched against the Vols’ wide receivers.
Still, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Kingsburg, Calif., native was pressured by Memphis’ defensive line all night but stayed composed in the pocket and got rid of the football quickly.
“I just tried to keep calm as usual and stay relaxed and let the rest of the guys on the field help me out,” Bray said.
That demeanor and Bray’s accuracy and ability to spot wide-open receivers has earned him the respect of his elder wide receivers.
“The guy can throw it. That’s what he does,” senior wide receiver Gerald Jones said. “I wish I could start my career over to play with him for four years, because he could make me better.”
Bray’s second career start for the Volunteers (3-6, 0-5) and first against an SEC opponent promises to be more challenging.
Mississippi (4-5, 1-4) is limiting opponents to an average 231.9 yards by air per game thanks to a strong pass rush led by Rebel defensive tackle Jerrell Powe.
Even though it’s his first conference start, Bray had a strong showing against South Carolina when he replaced then-starter Matt Simms and threw two touchdown passes to tie the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a guy with a very strong arm,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “He has made some big throws for them and has good receivers and has gotten better each time he has taken the field.”
Nutt has started preparing the Rebels for the Vols without knowing who will be behind center for his team.
Starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli suffered a concussion in the first quarter of Ole Miss’ win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, and Nutt said Monday that he did not know yet if the senior would be available to play.
Masoli’s backup, sophomore Nathan Stanley, completed 6-of-14 passes for 108 yards while letting the Rebels running backs do most of the work.
Dooley noted that he was very familiar with Stanley after recruiting him while coaching Louisiana Tech, but did not expect to see him Saturday.
“He’s a little different than Masoli, but I think Masoli’s going to be the guy we’re defending. I’d be shocked.”