Derek Dooley is still looking for his first signature win as the head coach at the University of Tennessee. He will get another opportunity Saturday when the Georgia Bulldogs visit Neyland Stadium.
Things are sure to go wrong at some point because they always do, but his team must learn how to handle the ebb and flow of a college football game.
“The real key to me in these games, and this is the step we need to make, is learning how to play with great team spirit, great effort, great toughness and discipline and all the while maintain your composure for four quarters,” Dooley said.
So far, the Volunteers have lost, on the road, to the Florida Gators and mopped the floor with visiting opponents Montana, Cincinnati and Buffalo. However, despite competition, the Bulldogs coach, Mark Richt is ready to call Tyler Bray the best quarterback in the conference. Dooley however, is not.
“Time will tell who the best quarterback in the SEC is,” Dooley said Tuesday. “I think those statements shouldn’t be made until the end of the year and we will find out. It is fair to say statistically he has performed the best over the last four games probably. That’s a fair comment.”
And Dooley would be correct, Bray is setting the world on fire and leading the SEC in nearly every statistical category. He leads the conference in passing yards per game (332), passing touchdowns (14), passing efficiency (176.8) and total offense (319.8). However, perhaps what is more impressive is the fact that to accompany those 14 touchdowns are only two interceptions.
“I like the touchdown to interception ratio the best because before you learn how to win a game you have to not lose it and the quickest way to lose a game is to throw it to the other guy,” Dooley said. “He has done pretty well with that so far.”
Bray has continued to excel despite losing his favorite target, sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter (ACL). One of his newest targets in freshman target DeAnthony Arnett.
“DeAnthony is a talented guy,” Dooley said. “His transition, he has got real good transition, he has got good ball skills and he has a good feel for the game, but his biggest thing right now is playing fast without the ball. That is something that all freshmen really struggle with.”
Arnett was able to reel in two touchdown passes against Buffalo in Week 2 and brought his yardage total to 86.
Bray’s perhaps will face his toughest challenge of the season when he tries to combat the Georgia defense Saturday night. The Dogs have only given up one touchdown in their last three games and will come into Neyland Stadium with a full head of steam.
“They are 11 big, physical guys,” Dooley said. “They are really big in the front, hard to move, they hit you and it hurts because they weight a lot and they are explosive.
“They have aggressive safeties that are active in the run and active on the ball. It’s good team defense. They have given up one touchdown in three games.”
Dooley, Bray and the Vols will continue their preparations for the Bulldogs Wednesday morning at 9.