Notebook: Crunching the numbers

A.J. Johnson (45), Curt Maggitt (56)

Even without go-to receiver Justin Hunter, sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray continues to post mind-boggling passing stats for the Tennessee Vols.

On the heels of a 21-for-30, 342-yard, four-touchdown performance in Saturday's 41-10 blitz of Buffalo, Bray leads the SEC in four major passing categories:

To wit:

— He is 1st in the SEC and 5th nationally in passing touchdowns (15).

— He is 1st in the SEC and 7th nationally in passing yards per game (332.0).

— He is 1st in the SEC and 7th nationally in passing efficiency (176.05).

— He is 1st in the SEC and 13th nationally in total offense (319.75).

Da' Rick Rogers, the go-to guy now that Hunter is gone, seems pretty comfortable with the role. He caught seven passes for 180 yards and two TDs vs. Buffalo and is showing up quite prominently in the SEC individual rankings, as well.

— He is 1st in the SEC and 3rd in the NCAA in receiving touchdowns (6).

— He is 2nd in the SEC and 24th in the NCAA in receptions per game (6.75).

— He is 2nd in the SEC and 17th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (110.5).

— He is 5th in the SEC and 38th in the NCAA in scoring (9.0 points per game).

Despite playing less than one quarter of Game 3 at Florida before suffering a torn ACL, Hunter still ranks 3rd among SEC players in both receptions per game (5.67) and receiving yards per game (104.67).

Given the sizzling starts for Bray, Rogers and Hunter, it isn't too surprising that Tennessee is among the national leaders in several offensive categories:

— Third-Down Efficiency: 1st in the SEC, 1st in the NCAA (62.1).

— Time Of Possession: 1st in the SEC, 5th in the NCAA (35:02).

— Passing Efficiency: 1st in the SEC, 8th in the NCAA (175.38).

— First Downs: 1st in the SEC, 11th in the NCAA (25.75 per game).

— Passing Offense: 2nd in the SEC, 11th in the NCAA (336.5).

— Total Offense: 2nd in the SEC, 31st in the NCAA (447.5).

BRAY EXTENDS STREAK

With four scoring passes vs. Buffalo, Bray has thrown multiple-touchdown passes in 10 consecutive games. That's the second-longest active streak in college football behind Boise State's Kellen Moore. Moore threw for a career-low 142 yards Saturday vs. Nevada but still managed two TD passes, extending his multiple-TD streak to 17.

Bray has thrown for at least three TDs five games in a row and seven times in his nine starts. He has thrown four or more TDs four times in nine starts.

Four games into his sophomore season Bray already ranks ninth on UT's all-time list with 32 career touchdown passes. His four-TD performance vs. Buffalo vaulted him past Jeff Francis, who threw 31 scoring passes between 1985 and '88.

RECAPPING THE ROOKIES

Two members of Tennessee's 2011 signing class got their first college starts versus Buffalo. Junior college transfer Izauea Lanier opened at cornerback and freshman Brendan Downs started along with junior Mychal Rivera in the two-tight end set. Freshman Brian Randolph made his second start, opening at nickel back as the Vols came out in their five-DB package. Randolph essentially replaced fellow freshman Curt Maggitt, who started the first three games at strongside linebacker. Senior Daryl Vereen opened at weakside linebacker in place of freshman A.J. Johnson, who had started Games 1 and 3 at the position.

Freshman return specialist Devrin Young, a Knoxville native, made his much-anticipated debut. After missing the first three games while recovering from a fractured collarbone, he returned Buffalo's first punt 43 yards to set up the Vols' initial touchdown. Young's runback was the program's longest punt return since fellow Knoxvillian Dennis Rogan bolted 45 yards against Vanderbilt on Nov. 17, 2007.

Freshman Jordan Williams saw his first action at defensive end and recorded his first career sack. Freshman Allan Carson debuted at defensive tackle. Fifteen true freshmen have played for the Big Orange through the first four games.

FLOURISHING ON FOURTH

Tennessee continues to exhibit a real knack for fourth-down defense, stopping Buffalo three times on conversion attempts. Big Orange foes have just one conversion to show for seven fourth-down tries this fall, with the lone success coming in Game 3 at Florida.

On the negative side, Tennessee allowed the Bulls' Chazz Anderson to ramble 68 yards on a quarterback keeper. That's the longest run surrendered by the Vols since LSU's Jordan Jefferson raced 83 yards (also on a quarterback keeper) on October 2, 2010.

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