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October 20, 2012Although years apart, Tyler Bray and Derek Dooley have one thing in common: They're both winless against ranked teams in their careers at Tennessee.
Bray moved to 0-5 against ranked teams as a starter while Dooley's record fell to 0-14 against ranked teams at Tennessee since becoming the Vols' coach in 2010.
"I'm really disappointed that we didn't execute a little better on offense. That's probably the thing I was a little surprised at," Dooley said. "The quarterback didn't play well. Not sure why. It's a great defense. That's not to take anything away from Alabama. Nobody's done much on them."
Bray completed 13 of 27 passes for 184 yards with two interceptions. For his career, when starting against ranked teams, Bray is 98 for 188, 52.1 completion percentage, with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The junior quarterback started just 3-10, but connected on passes of 26 yards and 25 yards. Even with the long pass plays Dooley said he could see his quarterback was out of rhythm before finding some success in the second quarter.
"He was a little jumpy early. He didn't even look good early and then I thought he played his way out of it, hit a couple of good balls," Dooley said. "Had a nice ball before the half, hits Justin on the in route, it was nice. But, just couldn't sustain any -- throwing the balls early, getting them batted, he never gets balls batted, so I don't know. He's got to play well for us to score points. That's just what it is."
The play-calling may have also suffered because of Bray's lackluster play. Trailing just 23-10 with 1:15 left in the first half and two timeouts remaining, the Vol coaching staff called a conservative plan.
Bray passed the ball to Marlin Lane three straight plays for 15 yards and a first down but Tennessee didn't call a timeout. Bray did throw one deep ball to Justin Hunter, who dropped it, but Tennessee took both timeouts into the half with them and some 30 yards from field goal range.
Dooley said that there were several reasons he wasn't more aggressive at the end of the half, including the poor form of the offense and Bray.
"There were a lot of reasons. I understand people upset at me. We're down 13, which is fine. It's not the end of the world. We're down two touchdowns and I didn't want to give them the ball back and risk going down 16 or even more, three score game," Dooley said. "If we were moving the ball well, I'd have been more aggressive. But, we took one shot and we dropped it. So, I wanted to get out of there without making it any worse. We weren't playing well on offense."
Although Bray seemed out of sync to his coach, Hunter said it was more than just Bray and credited the Tide's defense as well.
"There was just a lot going on out there tonight. There were a couple of people that weren't focused, just had a lot of (missed assignments). For the most part Tyler was doing his thing tonight. He was throwing the ball real well. Just, their defense was playing real good."
Regardless of the reason for Bray's struggles, Bray wouldn't be heard from after his last play, an incomplete pass attempt to Cordarrelle Patterson early in the fourth quarter. Justin Worley would finish out the last nine minutes of the game and Bray didn't speak to the media following the game.
LANE LEADS OFFENSE
One of the few bright spots for Tennessee's offense Saturday night was the play of Marlin Lane. The sophomore tailback receiving the first start of his career because of Rajion Neal's injured ankle, finished the game with 103 all-purpose yards, 55 rushing on 15 carries and 48 receiving on five catches.
Lane's 55 yards rushing was the second-best individual performance against the Alabama defense this season, second only to Arkansas' Knile Davis' 59 yards rushing.
"I felt like we did well because we had been we had been going all week trying to be physical and get four yards a carry making it second-and-6 instead of second-and-10," Lane said. "I just feel like we went out there and did well in the run game, but we could have done a little better."
Neal also lead Tennessee in catches and said it wasn't by design and they were just taking what the Alabama defense gave them.
"We were just going off of what the defense was running. We made a couple changes and I went out there and ran my routes. I just got open and tried to get the ball," Lane said.
SAULSBERRY MAKES IMPACT, WILLIAMS GETS THE START
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Trevarris Saulsberry notched his first career tackles Saturday against Alabama, finishing the game with five total tackles, including four solo. For the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Gainesville, Fla., native, it was only the second game of his career he's played in. He saw action against Georgia State earlier in the year.
Saulsberry wasn't the only Gainesville High School class of 2011 graduate to make an impact Saturday night. High school teammate Jordan Williams started at JACK and finished with two tackles.