Bray’s big-play focus fine, so far
Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 7:01 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Derek Dooley isn’t sure if Tyler Bray has figured out how to checkdown pass to his second or third target options. The young quarterback is too focused on making big plays to go with a shorter and sometimes safer option.
That’s OK with Dooley as long as the Volunteers’ passing game remains as strong against Cincinnati this week as it was in a 42-16 victory against Montana on Saturday.
“Tyler’s biggest challenge right now is not losing his aggressiveness, not losing his risk taking but knowing when to drop it down, hit a checkdown,” Dooley said. “I don’t think he’s hit one yet in seven starts. That will come. What I don’t want to say is, ‘Throw it to the checkdown, Tyler,’ and then all of a sudden he loses that juice because that helps us and we can push it down the field.”
Bray and sophomore wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers were dynamic in the win and helped the Vols overcome a slow start in the running game.
Bray was 17-for-24 with three touchdowns and 293 yards in a little over three quarters of play, while Hunter had 146 yards and a touchdown on six catches and Rogers picked up 100 yards and a touchdown with five catches.
“(Bray) is an outstanding quarterback,” Montana coach Robin Pflugrad. “He will probably go on to make a living at it.”
It was the seventh consecutive game Bray threw two or more touchdown passes, tying the record team streak set by Peyton Manning in 1997. Hunter and Rogers were the Vols’ first pair of 100-yard receivers since Lucas Taylor and Austin Rogers did it against Southern Mississippi in 2007.
“You can see (Bray) has a lot of confidence,” Hunter said. “He trusts me and Da’Rick more to give us the ball, so I think his completion percentage is going to be real high.”
The trio’s biggest plays — a 47-yard touchdown pass from Bray to Rogers and an 81-yard scoring connection between Bray and Hunter — got the most attention.
But Dooley was just as pleased with the way the sophomore quarterback managed the offense, something that proved challenging for him in six starts last season as a freshman.
“He was poised out there,” the coach said. “There are still some plays he could have done better, but for the most part he managed the game very well.”
The plays Dooley wasn’t thrilled with included two would-be interceptions that were nullified by a pair of pass interference calls on the Grizzlies.
He felt Bray made bad decisions on both plays, though tight end Mychal Rivera probably could have caught the ball on one of them had he not been shoved to the ground by a defender.
Still, the 71 percent completion rate was enough to get a smile and a fist pump after the game from Bray, who had previously said he wanted to maintain a 70 percent completion rate.
Dooley was also happy with the way Hunter and Rogers have developed over the past year. The pair showed their potential and talent as freshmen in 2010 but also at times showed they hadn’t quite grasped the playbook or their routes.
For now the coach is happy relying on the two young receivers rather than spreading the ball around.
Derek Dooley, Tennessee