Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers moved one step closer to a post-season birth with Saturday night's 24-10 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Even with one step forward the Vols appeared to take two steps back in a game filled with mistakes on both sides of the football.
“We had opportunities to put the game away and didn’t capitalize. Tyler (Bray) struggled with decision-making and you have to give Vanderbilt a lot of credit for that,” Derek Dooley said following the win. “You have to give our team a lot of credit. With all of the mistakes, we still held them to 10 points and found a way to win, and that’s all that matters.”
Saturday’s win at Vandy was the first time Tyler Bray showed a chink in the armor. After two highlight worthy weeks of football the freshman quarterback threw two interceptions in a lack-luster performance.
“It was tough to throw it deep. I tried to force things to much … tried to go deep to much and it didn’t pay off,” Tyler Bray said.
After several weeks of solid practice it seemed as though Dooley had a sense that there might be a let down heading to Nashville.
“All week I never felt good about our approach, especially offensively,” Dooley said. “Probably the worst week of practice we had on offense.”
Senior wideout Gerald Jones credited the Vols struggles to great halftime adjustments by the Commodores.
"Second half they made a great adjustment and had a lot of movement with their defensive line and linebackers, and even their defensive backs," Jones said.
Derek Dooley hoped to get some relief on special teams with new punt returner Anthony Anderson, but no such luck. Anderson fumbled his second catch of the night in what was still a close ball game.
"I am embarrassed, I really am," said Dooley. "That is now our sixth punt returner of the year that can’t catch a punt. I will take any suggestions."
Tauren Poole and the offensive unit struggled mightily to move the ball along the ground against the worst defense in the SEC.
“We’re not good at running the ball and that’s why we struggled,” Dooley said. “We played really well for being not good running the ball. We stink at running the ball. I don’t know what else to say.”
Poole was stopped just shy of another 100-yard performance despite a late stat-padding touchdown run to seal the victory with the game still in doubt.
One bright spot for the Vols was the play of senior defensive tackle Gerald Williams.
"He was active, blocked a field goal and he had the pick-six that didn't count," Dooley said of Williams' play. "Gerald has had a great attitude ... He just keeps bringing it every week and I am proud of him."
Williams touchdown was negated by a roughing the passer penalty by fellow defensive tackle Malik Jackson.
Despite all the mistakes Dooley and the Volunteers have moved with one game of a bowl bid and the head coach says his team is in playoff-mode.
"We have a one game season. We are in the playoffs," said Dooley. "If we loose we go home and if we win we have a heck of an opportunity to go to the post-season."
The Volunteers will square off with Kentucky in Neyland Stadium to keep their bowl chances alive and one thing is for certain, the Vols will need a better effort to beat the Wildcats.
"If we play the way we did today we will get beat 50 to nothing against Kentucky," Dooley said.