Derek Dooley could hardly mask his disgust. Not that Tennessee's second-year head coach really even tried to do so.
On the heels of the Vols' 41-10 drubbing of hapless Buffalo Saturday before an announced crowd of 87,758, Dooley blasted his squad's up-and-down special teams performance, most notably expressing his dissatisfaction with Tennessee's second blocked punt in as many games. Fortunately for the Vols, punter Matt Darr scooped up his rejected offering and scampered 18 yards to pick up the first down and allow his offense to grind out the clock.
"It was embarrassing," said Dooley, a former special teams coach. "They rushed one guy, and we just released. It's lazy. It's a microcosm of what we looked like on offense in the second half. It's ridiculous. We're not even blocking. It had nothing to do with anything, other than a guy just choosing not to do what he's coached to do. That's all it was."
In addition to the blocked punt, the Vols saw freshman Devrin Young amass 100 all-purpose yards but fumble a late kickoff. Tennessee also failed to recover a squibbed kickoff that gutted the Vols' kickoff return team.
Young, whose 43-yard punt return eclipsed the Vols' season total of 36 punt return yards through the first three games, brought a palpable energy to the team, quarterback Tyler Bray said.
"It's big. It has everyone â€" the line's fired up. They were out there jacked and ready to go and then it also has the other guys ready to go," Bray said.
Added Dooley, "I hope he can continue to do that. It was good to get a little energy going in the return game and hopefully that will energize the guys blocking. But, he put the ball on the ground, too. So, y'all know why now I had him carrying the ball all week. Didn't help, but maybe it did. Maybe he would have fumbled five. It was kind of a good 'get your feet wet' and then we'll see how we can progress."
Senior linebacker Austin Johnson, a special teams fixture throughout his career, also pointed to the excitement brought by the diminutive Young, who's just 5-8 and 165 pounds.
"It juiced us up a little bit," Johnson said. "Devrin's really been trying to get back in there. We knew he'd have his opportunity this week. Just seeing that really hyped us up. We'd been kind of struggling on punt return, not really getting the big plays. Just seeing that really gives us momentum . Hopefully we'll have more returns like that in the future."
Tennessee also got a pair of field goals from sophomore placekicker Michael Palardy, each coming from 28 yards out. Palardy also managed to slip one through the uprights despite a terribly high snap that left holder Chip Rhome scrambling to get the ball down.
PUTTING FOURTH EFFORT
Tennessee's defense continues to impress on fourth down this season, holding Buffalo on all three times the Bulls attempted to convert fourth downs and improving their season total to holding opponents on six of seven fourth-down attempts.