New QB, same old result for Vols’ offense
Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 7:02 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tired of watching his offense struggle, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley tried a new quarterback. The results were the same.
With true freshman Justin Worley at the helm, the Volunteers stumbled through another poor offensive performance and wasted a strong defensive effort in a 14-3 loss to No. 14 South Carolina on Saturday night.
“We fought them hard, but we’re just a mess on offense,” Dooley said. “We can’t run. We struggled to throw. We had the ball twice in the red area and we turned the ball over.”
The Vols had little trouble scoring early in the season with Tyler Bray behind center but the points have been hard to come by ever since Bray broke the thumb on his throwing hand against Georgia on Oct. 8.
Dooley named Worley the starter on Monday after Matt Simms struggled against No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. Worley’s only game experience before Saturday was on five plays against the Crimson Tide, all of them handoffs to the tailbacks.
Worley was 10-of-26 for 105 yards and two interceptions. He had several long, accurate passes — a few of which were dropped by receivers — but had just as many glaring misses.
“I think there was a lot of pressure on Justin, but I’m still really proud of how he stepped up and did the best he could,” tight end Mychal Rivera said. “We all made mistakes out there. I just want to continue pushing on with them as an offense and look forward to the rest of the season.”
The Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1) remain in control of the Southeastern Conference’s East Division heading into the final month of the season.
It was their first game without star Marcus Lattimore, who had 818 yards rushing for the year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 15 against Mississippi State. Coach Steve Spurrier had a bye week to prepare a plan for Brandon Wilds and the rest of the South Carolina backfield.
Wilds gradually picked up steam as the game wore on and finished with 137 yards on 28 carries.
He was the centerpiece of a methodical drive that ate up much of the third quarter. He ran 11 times for 51 yards on the 20-play drive, and Conner Shaw finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown run on a draw that gave the Gamecocks a 14-3 lead with 47 seconds in the third quarter.
The drive threatened to deflate the Vols (3-5, 0-5), who had second-half meltdowns in three previous games. After picking up one first down, Worley threw three straight incomplete passes, and the Vols punted.
But Brian Randolph recovered a fumble by Wilds on the next drive at the South Carolina 27. The breath of life was short-lived as Worley threw an interception on the very first play to Stephon Gilmore.
Tennessee’s defense managed to keep pressure on Shaw most of the night, sacking him three times. Shaw was 10-for-18 for 87 yards and an interception in addition to two scores, and top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was limited to just 17 yards on three catches.
Early in the second half, Shaw was picked off by Prentiss Waggner, who ran the ball 54 yards to the two-yard line before being tackled, but Worley threw an interception of his own two plays later to D.J. Swearinger.
Published in The Messenger 10.31.11