Ugly Vols survive UAB scare
Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010 5:30 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee needed every bit of confidence it could get heading into what promises to be a brutal month of Southeastern Conference play. Instead, the Volunteers struggled to get past UAB.
The defense couldn’t stop the Blazers and the offense couldn’t score after halftime, but the Vols still pulled out an ugly 32-29 win on Saturday thanks to a 25-yard pass from Matt Simms to Denarius Moore in double-overtime.
“We got whipped up and down the field for four quarters by UAB,” coach Derek Dooley said. “I don’t know what else to say other than we’ve got a lot of issues.”
After back-to-back losses to top 10 teams, the Vols (2-2) had a chance to regroup as a two-touchdown favorite. It was also a chance to break in a few true freshmen thrust into starting roles because of injuries before trips to LSU, Georgia and South Carolina and a visit from No. 1 Alabama in the next month.
Instead, the defense allowed UAB (1-3) to rack up 544 yards of offense and fight its way back from a 23-7 deficit. David Isabelle found Frantrell Forrest on a 27-yard touchdown strike and ran for six yards for another score, and Bryan Ellis hit Jeffery Anderson on two two-point conversions.
Josh Zahn missed field goals from 30, 35, 41, 49 and 54 yards, any of which could have prevented the game from going into overtime.
The Vols had no answer on offense.
The running game had already fallen apart in the second quarter when Tauren Poole suffered a right thigh injury that kept him from returning.
The Vols started their first drive after halftime at the UAB 32, but Denarius Moore dropped what would have been a touchdown pass by Simms.
Zach Rogers dropped a deep pass on third-and-12 in the middle of the third quarter that would have moved Tennessee deep into UAB territory, but the Vols punted instead. Tennessee converted only two of 15 third downs and made a few short attempts tougher with false start penalties.
“The bottom could have fallen out,” linebacker Nick Reveiz said. “People could have given up, and a lot of bad things could have happened.”
If there’s any improvement the Vols have made this season, it’s been the players’ efforts in the face of adversity. Tennessee unraveled in the third quarter of a 48-13 loss to Oregon and struggled and struggled in the fourth quarter of a 31-17 loss to Florida.
After Tennessee and UAB trading field goals in the first overtime, the Vols managed to stop the Blazers 4 yards short of the end zone in the second overtime.
Zahn kicked a 21-yard field goal to give UAB a 29-26 lead.
That’s when Moore showed his resiliency. Simms threw toward the back of the endzone on the first play of the Vols’ second-overtime drive, and Moore stretched to make the catch with two defenders flanking him.
“When coach told me that he was going to go with that play, I was like, ‘OK, this is great. We can execute this and get out of this game with a victory with not playing as great as we would like to all four quarters before that,”’ Simms said.
That kind of fighting is all the team can do this season, Dooley said.
“I told the team I’ve got a policy that I’m never not going to celebrate a win because they’re hard to come by.”