Things started off shaky for Tennessee, but the Volunteers surged in the second half to beat the Akron Zips 47-26 Saturday night.
The Vols (3-1, 0-1 SEC) outscored the Zips 24-3 in the second half and were led by Tyler Bray's 27-43, 401 yards and three touchdown performance.
"He just kept settling in and he played well down the stretch," said head coach Derek Dooley. "He had a good demeanor about him. It was a big step for him."
Bray started off shaky, throwing a pick-six to give Akron (1-3) an early 7-0 lead over the Vols.
"I just went to the wrong side," said Bray. "I saw something I didn't like, decided to go to the other side and I was wrong."
The junior quarterback settled down, though, and made the throws when it counted. Bray started 11-20 for 158 yards, a touchdown and the costly interception. Bray finished strong, completing 16 of his last 19 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
"We just knew we had to get out there and pick it up," Bray said. "I missed a bunch of throws. We could have scored more. We just couldn't finish drives. We were putting together great drives and just couldn't finish."
Bray, who's 401-yard game was just the fifth in school history, wasn't the only big producer in the Vols' win. Running back Rajion Neal exploded for a 154-yard performance and receiving touchdown.
"He did a lot better today," Dooley said. "Looked like he broke a lot of tackles, hit the hole hard, got seven yards a carry. That's what we need."
After the interception return for the Zips, Tennessee settled in and scored on their next two possessions, giving the Vols a 10-7 lead midway through the first quarter.
The two teams traded blows the remainder of the first half and both kickers were a perfect 5-for-5 heading into the locker room with the game tied at 23-23.
"Every time we come into half-time we say the score is zero–zero," said safety Byron Moore. "The second half is a whole new game. The score at halftime doesn't matter. Just keep our composure and come out to play the rest of the game the best we can."
Coming out of the half, the Vols turned it up a notch. Moore reeled in his second interception of the night with the Zips inside the Tennessee 20-yard line to end the last real touchdown threat Akron mounted.
"He's really settled in and is playing some good football," Dooley said. "He's not trying to do anything beyond what he is capable of and good things happen when you do that."
The Volunteers were able to carry over their late first half momentum and score on four of the seven second half possessions, all three touchdowns coming from the arm of Bray.
"I'm proud that we had so many things go wrong in the game and we came out and dominated the second half," Dooley said.
Tennessee will travel to Georgia next weekend to take on the Bulldogs. The game will be at 3:30 p.m. ET and will broadcast on CBS.