Tennessee just entered what head coach Derek Dooley is calling their "second season."
It's like a "take No. 2" for UT football, but there's no third strike. They're on their "ninth life" so to speak, and they know it.
With three more games left in the season, they need to win out. Dooley needs them to win out.
There were a lot of highs and lows from the Volunteers' win over Troy on Saturday — so many that it's hard to know what to focus on. The defense's negatives and the offense's positives looked pretty clear from the press box, but the 55-48 win over the Trojans showed me there were issues on one side of the ball.
— I never thought I'd say this, but Bray is currently on fire. The junior threw for five touchdowns: 35 of the Vols' 55 points. With 530 passing yards against Troy, he managed to break former Vol Peyton Manning's single-game record of 523 against Kentucky in 1997. Bray holds the record for second-most passing yards in a single game from an SEC quarterback.
— Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter combined for 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Hunter said that going into the game, he thought they might get 50 each, Patterson said maybe 100 each. Bray said with NFL-caliber receivers like Hunter and Patterson, he can always count on them to be open. I previously wrote that Tennessee has one of the best receiving corps in the nation and that hasn't changed. I've been impressed with Zach Rogers lately as well.
— At 472 career completions, Bray has the ability to meet or surpass another of Manning's records. Bray only needs 392 more completions and he has the time and receivers to do it. It'll be like wiping sweat off his forehead.
— Tennessee's offensive line has stopped some of the top defenses in the country. The Vols held South Carolina to only one sack. No big deal, until you realize that the Gamecocks' defensive line was averaging nearly four sacks per game until that point.
— Michael Palardy added six points to the board. The win over Troy wouldn't have happened without him.
— Basically, Tennessee's offense rocks. The offensive line is hot, the quarterback is hot, the receivers are hot and I'll wrap up with Marlin Lane for the win.
— Missed tackles are the Vols' archnemesis, or at least they should be. The team gave up 48 points to Troy, who scored 20 points in the second quarter, mainly because someone on the defense missed a tackle and then couldn't recover in time to stop the receiver/running back.
— Third and long is not Tennessee's specialty. Their third down efficiency landed at 4-11 against Troy. The Trojans converted on third and 16, 15, 12 and 8, just to name a few. In the fourth quarter, with Troy heading down the field at third-and-15, Corey Robinson threw to Chip Reeves for 34 yards and the first down. Unfortunately, that was just a taste of what fans were watching on the field.
— The Vols' secondary has been getting burnt like toast and the view from the press box is even more depressing, and it doesn't matter if it is a freshman or a senior, they are all getting beat.
— Another negative was defensive back Daniel Gray who couldn't seem to find his groove and floundered down the field. Unfortunately, when Waggner jumped in to save him, he didn't seem to make a difference.
— Basically Tennessee's defense isn't looking good and hasn't for a while now.
— Lauren Kittrell is a senior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org