2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Montana at Tennessee
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Sept. 3 at Tennessee 42 … Montana 16
CFN Analysis: Remember, Montana is an FCS national title-level superpower, and Tennessee had no problems rolling to the easy win. Tyler Bray was phenomenal, especially on third downs, completing 17-of-24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns while keeping the chains moving time and again. The pass protection was spotty and the line struggled to get the running game going on a consistent basis, but the passing game more than made up for the problems with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers combining to make 11 catches for 246 yards and two scores. The defense did its job, and now it has to deal with a Cincinnati team that hung up 72 points in the opener. As long as Bray is as efficient as he was, all will be fine.
(AP) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tyler Bray threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns as Tennessee beat Montana 42-16 in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night.
Justin Hunter grabbed six receptions for 146 yards, and Da'Rick Rogers had 100 yards on five catches to become the Volunteers' first pair to each have more than 100 yards receiving in a single game since 2007. Both players had a touchdown catch.
The Vols got a fast start after a kickoff delayed over an hour and a half for lightning.
Tennessee lost yards on its first drive after Caleb McSurdy sacked Bray for a loss of 10 yards on third down. Montana's Peter Nguyen fumbled the subsequent punt, and Bray connected with Da'Rick Rogers on a flea-flicker play for a 47-yard touchdown pass on the next play to put the Vols up 7-0 with 12:47 to go in the first quarter.
On the third-and-7 at the Vols 19 on the following drive, Bray hit Hunter around midfield, and Hunter outran defenders the rest of the way for the 81-yard touchdown play.
Bray finished 17-of-24 with no interceptions. The touchdown pass to Rogers marked his seventh consecutive game with two or more TDs, tying a record set by Peyton Manning during his senior season in 1997.
The Grizzlies got their lone score in the first half when Jordan Johnson connected with Jabin Sambrano on an 80-yard pass play, burning Tennessee true freshman Justin Coleman on the route. The score cut the Vols' lead to 28-7 with 3:49 left in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies couldn't sustain the momentum and went three-and-out on the following drive, their last of the half.
The touchdown play was Sambrano's only catch of the night, but the 80 yards led Montana's receivers.
The Grizzlies pinned a punt by their own Sean Winn at the Tennessee 1 yard line, and Ben Hughes downed Tauren Poole in the end zone for a safety that cut Tennessee's margin to 28-9 with 12:45 in the third quarter. It was as close as Montana would get as Art Evans picked off Johnson two plays later and returned the ball 37 yards for a touchdown that put the Vols up 35-9.
Johnson finished 19-of-36 for 226 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Nguyen had 67 yards rushing on nine carries and Jordan Canada scored on a 7-yard run with 6:04 left in the game.
Tennessee held the ball nearly twice as long as Montana in the first half and outgained the Grizzlies 302 yards to 140. The Vols took control of the game thanks to a few long possessions, including a 96-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Bray to Marlin Lane.
They had their share of mistakes beyond the safety, though none proved to be too costly. They fumbled the wet ball six times in the first half but managed to recover each time.
Bray was sacked three times for a loss of 21 yards, and the offensive line struggled at times to open up holes for the running game. Tauren Poole, who ran for 1,034 yards in 2010, still managed to pick up 98 yards on 24 carries.
Montana (0-0) vs.
Tennessee (0-0) Sept. 3, 6:00 GamePlan
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Here’s The Deal … Tennessee is still trying to rebuild, rebrand, and reload. The athletic department has undergone some major changes, and there’s been a mix of tragedy and embarrassment on the basketball side, but the football program appears to be on the right track under head coach Derek Dooley, who’s a straight shooter who’s trying to put the Vols among the elite of the elite again. With five of the first six games and six of the first eight at home – with the two on the road coming against Florida and Alabama – the chance is there to get off to a big start. It all begins against a Montana team coming off a 7-4 season that would be nice at most places, but was a disaster for a program used to winning Big Sky championships and being in the hunt for the FCS national title. Beating Tennessee would be a tall order, but a good showing might prove that the Grizzlies have rebounded under second-year head coach Robin Pflugrad.
Why Montana Might Win: The Montana defense should be terrific. While the run defense was mediocre last year, the secondary was among the best in the FCS – ranking third in the nation in pass defense and seventh in pass efficiency D – and while a few key parts have to be replaced, Trumaine Johnson is among the best corners Tennessee will face all year. The Vols’ biggest concern will be running the ball against a deep and talented linebacking corps with Jordan Tripp, Caleb McSurdy, and Alex Shaw back and certain to combine forces for 300 tackles. The Tennessee ground game was last in the SEC last season and 105th in the nation averaging just 109 yards per game, while the pass protection was miserable. The Grizz defense should be aggressive enough and active enough to force the Vols to be one dimensional.
Why Tennessee Might Win: The Montana quarterback situation isn’t exactly settled. Gone is Justin Roper who wasn’t always consistent, but he got the offense moving. Joe Montana’s son, Nate, had some problems off the field, and he’s not quite in the mix on it with Jordan Johnson and Gerald Kemp likely to split time. Kemp is the runner and Johnson is the passer, and Tennessee doesn’t care. Neither one has enough experience to throw a scare into the Vol defense, while the Grizz running game isn’t going to pick up the slack with a committee of backs looking to take over for Chase Reynolds, who carried the ground game. All the uncertainty and all the concerns in the offense won’t matter to a Tennessee defense that will make up for a lack of overall depth and experience with raw athleticism. The Vols might not be loaded up front, but they can move. Even without star free safety Janzen Jackson, who was booted from the team, the secondary should be terrific and should give the new Montana quarterback problems.
What To Watch Out For: The Tennessee linebacking corps has to quickly regroup. This was a thin group to begin with, and Herman Lathers, who was expected to be a key piece of the puzzle, is out thanks to an ankle injury that’s not back to 100%. Austin Johnson will take over in the middle, and while he needs more time to be the leader, his experience will be invaluable with two true freshmen, A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt, likely to get the call on the outside. The two new prospects have good size, can move, and are surprisingly polished for being so young. They’ll be tested right away, and they have to come up with a huge game to keep the Montana offense to work up the middle. The more Johnson and Maggitt can funnel to the inside, the better.
What Will Happen: Watch out. Tennessee is patching things together on the defensive front seven, and it’s hoping for night-and-day improvement from the offensive line. Montana has a dangerous pass rush that should bother Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray all game long, and it has enough talent at receiver and tight end to make the passing game go. The Vols will come up with the win by barreling away with the running game and getting a few home runs out of Bray and the passing attack, but this will be a fight with the Grizzlies having their chances to take control.
CFN Prediction: Tennessee 27 ... Montana 21
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