JOE BIDDLE: Vols pull together to skin 'Cats - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Vols pull together to skin 'Cats

Posted: Updated: Nov 25, 2012 01:56 PM
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -

You've heard of the Outback Bowl. Of course.

Neyland Stadium was the site of the Outhouse Bowl Saturday, featuring Tennessee and Kentucky, two teams desperately in search of their first SEC win of the season.

No surprise, then, that both teams are in the market for new head coaches.

Tennessee managed to remove that sour taste the Wildcats deposited in their mouths a year ago by handing former Vols Coach Derek Dooley his most damning loss in a list of disappointments.

The 10-7 defeat in Commonwealth Stadium snapped a 26-game win streak for the Vols. The Vols were not about to let UK put up back-to-back wins.

This wasn't the same Vols team from a week ago when Vanderbilt ripped up and down the field in a 41-18 laugher that sent Dooley packing.

Jim Chaney was asked to coach the Kentucky game by Athletics Director Dave Hart. The offensive coordinator's job was to repair the wounds and get this team ready to play.

"It was a wonderful thing for me to do,'' Chaney said after the 37-17 victory. "I have never done anything like this in my life. … The official came over to me at half and asked me which way we wanted to kick the ball. I didn't know. I said, why don't you choose it.''

Chaney inherited a team that had been beaten down and battered. But he felt better as the week went on.

"Dealing with change is difficult, but as the week progressed, I felt like by Friday we were ready to go play a ball game. As the week was going, the healing was happening,'' Chaney said.

Chaney's premonition was spot on. The Vols were sharp from the opening drive, tearing off 80 yards in only eight plays and just over two minutes. David Lipscomb product Zach Rogers drew first blood, taking a Tyler Bray pass into the end zone on a skinny post route from his slot receiver position.

Even though Kentucky answered after the Vols secondary let a 29-yard completion set them up for the tying touchdown from six yards out.

It was the last time the two teams were tied. Kentucky drew to 20-17 with 7:31 left in the third quarter, but Bray hit tight end Mychal Rivera with a strike down the right sidelines and the senior from Valencia, Calif., made it a quick six.

The Vols were on their way to a 37-17 laugher, improving their record to 5-7 on the season.

While Bray was Vince Young against Vanderbilt, he was Peyton Manning against Kentucky. He was on target most of the day, and there were no signs of his listless play and couldn't-care-less attitude against Vanderbilt.

Bray was 20 of 34 for 293 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Bray spread the wealth around, with touchdown passes to Rogers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Rivera. All four receivers could be gone next season as Rogers and Rivera are seniors and Patterson and Hunter are expected to test the NFL waters.

Even Tennessee's much maligned defense got into the act. The Wildcats rolled goose eggs on three fourth down attempts. Twice during the game, Kentucky tried to go for it on fourth-and-short. Twice the running back ran head-on into Vols defensive end Jordan Williams, losing ground on both plays.

As a result Chaney earned his first win as a college coach and the celebratory bucket of water in the chilly climate.

While the statistics suggest a much closer game with both teams gaining 23 first downs and the Vols outgaining UK in total yards by only 45 yards, the Vols found the end zone while the ‘Cats couldn't sustain enough scoring drives

Now both programs look toward the future. Kentucky alumnus Joker Phillips learned his fate weeks ago while Dooley was informed he would not return Monday. He chose not to coach the final game and Hart turned it over to Chaney to call the shots.

Chaney was asked after the game what this season has been like for him and the players.

"Tough. Tough,'' he said. "It's been a tough one, I'll tell you that.''

I think every Tennessee fan can agree on that.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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