After a month of struggles, heartaches, and disappointment, Tennessee started off the month of November in grand style with a relaxing 50-14 win over the Memphis Tigers. Plenty of things went right for the Vols and plenty of players played well. Here are a few in this weeks "Five Reasons Why".
1. Talent - There hasn't been many games this season where you could say that the Vols were the more talented team. But Saturday night in the Liberty Bowl what few fans were in attendance found out quickly that Tennessee was indeed the more talented team and certainly were deserving of being a nearly three touchdown favorite. Most times talent wins over any other factor and Saturday night Tennessee's talent certainly was a major key in the Vols routing the Tigers, keeping their bowl hopes alive.
2. Turnovers - The only way that Memphis was going to have a chance to pull off the upset was to force Tennessee into mistakes. The Vols did turn it over once but it led to no points by the Tigers. While Memphis needed to force Vol mistakes, they certainly didn't need to make any of their own and they made plenty. The Tigers turned it over 5 times and the Vols capitalized on all 5 miscues turning them into 27 points. Regardless of the talent match-up, if the Vol defense can create 5 turnovers the will have a chance to win any game.
3. The passing game - Obvioulsy, you could just say Tyler Bray, but you really have to give the receivers credit as well as that unit continues to improve weekly. Bray threw for 325 yards and 5 touchdowns with 308 of those yards and all 5 scores coming in the first half. Bray didn't finish with a flurry, but the freshman played well and shredded a young Tigers secondary. Bray wasn't sacked and showed great pocket presence in avoiding the rush. At the receiver spot, everyone got in the act. Five different players caught touchdown passes including Da'Rick Rogers, who found the endzone for the first time in his career. Justin Hunter also had a touchdown reception. But the story on the receiving end of the passing game continues to be the senior trio of Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones and Luke Stocker. The three veterans combined for 14 catches for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns.
4. Malik Jackson - The junior transfer from Southern Cal, had a seasons worth of highlights in the Bluff City. Jackson's line was simply gaudy for a defensive tackle. He led the team with 8 tackles. He had 2 sacks, another tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and an interception that he returned 44 yards setting up a touchdown. Jackson's clearly emerged as the Vols best defensive lineman since reluctantly sliding inside to play tackle. In the first six games, Jackson had 13 tackles. In the last three games, Jackson has 20 tackles, 3 sacks, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry, a pass break up, and an interception. Pretty good 12 quarters of football and certainly his best game Saturday night.
5. Chunk plays - The Vols went the length of the field all night long, but it didn't take a lot of plays for them to do it thanks to big plays, explosive plays, or chunk plays if you will. Coming into the game the Vols had 31 plays on the year of 20 yards or more. Saturday night, Tennessee had 8 plays for over 20 yards. Those 8 plays accounted for 244 of the Vols 509 yards of offense making for a fun and relaxing win in the Liberty Bowl.