Same old song for Tennessee.
Now the question is will the Vols sing a different tune over the last four games?
Tennessee once again played hard and hung tight with a ranked Southeastern Conference foe. And the Vols once again walked away with a loss. This time No. 17 South Carolina held on as the Vols’ fell short 38-35 on the road Saturday.
The fourth consecutive defeat for UT makes Derek Dooley’s record against ranked teams 0-15 in three years as head coach. Luckily for Dooley, there’s still time to save his job and salvage a disappointing season.
“We have to view this as a second season,” Dooley said. “That is all you have to do. There is a lot at stake. There is a bowl at stake.”
A favorable last four games await the Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC). That starts with a winnable contest this weekend. Though Troy is a perennial Sun Belt power, UT has more talent.
Disposing of non-conference opponents hasn’t been the problem. All three wins this year have come outside of the conference.
The SEC has been a harder puzzle to crack. But their last three opponents don’t appear as daunting. After Troy, UT welcomes Missouri, which has struggled in its new league. A Nov. 17 matchup at Vanderbilt poses the biggest challenge over the next four weeks. But even with a loss to the in-state rival, that bowl-clinching win could come the next week against hapless Kentucky.
At least Tennessee displayed some resiliency against the Gamecocks.
The Vols never led and on three occasions fell behind by 14 points. They responded every time with a score of their own. Zach Rogers’s third touchdown catch of the game pulled UT within three with more than eight minutes left.
Tyler Bray, showing poise resembling a leader most of the game, appeared to be driving Tennessee toward the go-ahead score late in the game. The Vols moved down to the South Carolina 19-yard line but then they caught another bad break. Bray was hit by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and fumbled with 1:08 left.
Another signature win snatched away.
Yet, there is still time for Dooley to write a signature moment this season. If not, the unwelcome tune of taps could be on the horizon.
Middle Tennessee State 38, North Texas 21: The Blue Raiders (5-3, 3-1 Sun Belt) jumped out to a 31-point lead thanks to several big-play touchdowns. Three went for more than 40 yards, including a 45-yard scramble by quarterback Logan Kilgore. He also threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
Tennessee State 22, Tennessee Tech 21: The Tigers (8-1, 4-1 Ohio Valley) bounced back after their first loss and rode the foot of Jamin Godfrey, who made a school-record five field goals and drilled the game-winning extra point. The PAT came after Michael German threw a 6-yard touchdown pass as time expired. Tech (2-6, 0-5) lost its sixth straight and played without starting quarterback Tre Lamb and top receiver Da’Rick Rogers.
Southeast Missouri State 48, Austin Peay 27: Give the Governors (0-8, 0-6 OVC) credit for not giving up on homecoming. They sliced a 31-point deficit to 14 and were two yards away from cutting it to a one-touchdown game with more than three minutes left. But a fumble by Reco Williams led directly to a SEMO score and the Govs dropped their 10th straight. They match Rhode Island for the longest losing streak in the FCS.
BY THE NUMBERS
3 – touchdowns by Darian Stone. In his first start at quarterback, the sophomore accounted for all three scores by Tech. He threw two touchdowns and ran for another as he finished with 86 yards on 16 carries.
8 – catches by TSU tight end A.C. Leonard. The Florida transfer set career-highs for receptions and yards (102). His biggest grab came when he hauled in a game-tying six-yard touchdown as time expired.
10 – career 300-yard passing games for Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray after throwing for 368 yards against South Carolina. The junior leads all active SEC quarterbacks. He also moved past Jeff Francis for fifth all-time in UT history with 6,114 passing yards.
140 – career-high receiving yards by Kyle Griswould. The MTSU junior caught just three passes but two ended in the end zone, including a 72-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Tennessee State kicker Jamin Godfrey
In one game, Godfrey broke two school records and, more importantly, kicked the game-winning extra point. The junior from Englewood, Tenn., bounced back after missing two field goals in TSU’s first loss last week. He was named the OVC’s Special Teams Player of the Week after he a school-record five field goals against Tennessee Tech. He didn’t miss a field goal and connected on attempts of 37, 32, 27, 41 and 22 yards. The chip shot in the third quarter was the 39th of his career and propelled him past Eric Benson (2005-08) for most in school history. He accounted for all the Tigers’ scoring except for the game-tying touchdown as time expired. But Godfrey’s crucial extra point lifted TSU past Tech and to a 22-21 win.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“I’m still numb. All I can say is that was The Hole that won that one. We didn’t play a very good game. We looked like undisciplined football team at times. ... Our offense did what they do in two-minute [drills] on Tuesday. They drove down the field and scored. That’s what we expect of those guys.” — Tennessee State coach Rod Reed after a come-from-behind 22-21 victory over Tennessee Tech
Vanderbilt strolls into struggling Kentucky (1-8, 0-6 SEC) looking for consecutive conference wins for the first time since 2008. ... Tennessee hopes to get a reprieve from a daunting conference schedule, snap a four-game losing streak and sweep its non-conference slate as upset-minded Troy comes to Knoxville. ... Before TSU can finally get a bye after 10 weeks of football, the Tigers face a formidable road test against Murray State and Casey Brockman, who passed for a school-record 600 yards against TSU last year. ... Tech must regroup after a close loss to TSU and try to heal as high-flying Eastern Illinois hopes to ruin homecoming. ... Austin Peay’s 10-game losing streak, tied for longest in the FCS, should end with a visit from NAIA Culver-Stockton (1-8).