After getting off to a promising start the Volunteers fell flat on their faces.
Tennessee began the game taking an early 7-0 lead over the heavily favored Ducks, and looked very consistent on the defensive end which had been in question since last year’s dismal season. Then ensued 59 unanswered points by the highly potent Oregon offense, sending the Vols home with a 59-14 loss in Eugene, Ore. Saturday afternoon.
The Vols defense came out looking very impressive the first few drives of the game. First holding Oregon to a three and out then, after having to come out on the field unexpectedly due to a Raijon Neal fumble, held the Ducks to a missed field goal attempt. Compounded with an impressive six play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Justin Worley touchdown pass to redshirt freshmen receiver Jason Croom, momentum seemed to be on the side of the underdog.
After that though, Oregon started playing like Oregon. The Ducks ripped off nine straight scoring drives to take a commanding 59-7 lead that stretched from 5:45 left in the 1st quarter, to their last touchdown with 2:19 left in the 3rd quarter. They were without a doubt as good as advertised once again.
By the end of the day the young Tennessee defense gave up 687 yards of total offense, their worst performance since giving up 712 yards against Troy last season, and the 59 points they surrendered was the most since giving up 59 to Florida in 2007. They also allowed Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota to have a career day, completing 23-of-33 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns. He ended with more yards passing than the Vols offense collectively accumulated, 316.
Saturday was also another topsy-turvy day for junior quarterback Justin Worley who finished 13-of-25 for 126 yards passing and a touchdown, but still left several opportunities on the field with under and over thrown passes. Another problem for the second straight week was his inability to negotiate defensive pressure, which caused him to rush passes and force them in bad places again.
Saturday was a learning game for Tennessee under first year head coach Butch Jones, and it was made clear the Vols have a lot to work on before their next outing.
Tennessee will have to learn and move forward quickly though, as they will travel to Gainsville, Fla. Saturday, Sept. 21, to face the No. 18 Florida Gators in their first SEC game of the season. Kickoff is set for 3:30p.m. EDT on CBS.