Volunteers junior starting quarterback Justin Worley (Photo Credit: usatoday.com)
On Saturday the Tennessee Volunteers were able to rest on the heels of their defense, who forced seven turnovers total in a rout of Western Kentucky. However while the defense surged, the offense seemed to sputter.
By the end of the first half the Tennessee offense hadn’t even accumulated 100 total yards. While some of the blame can be placed on all of the Hilltoppers turnovers, the Vols still had plenty of chances to move the ball down the field in long drives, but couldn’t produce.
After taking a commanding 31-3 lead in the first half, Tennessee’s offense went three and out the next three consecutive drives, gaining only a total of 22 yards and allowing Western Kentucky to close the gap back to a 14 point game.
The most dismal performance was being put on by Vols junior quarterback Justin Worley, who completed only three-of-nine passes for 35 yards, placing most of the workload on the rushing game. He looked a little better in the second half and rebounded to finish the game with 11-of-19 completions and a touchdown, but still forced a pass into triple coverage in the corner of the endzone that resulted in a drive-ending interception.
Worley never seemed to be comfortable Saturday. If he wasn’t rushing passes he was throwing them 10 feet over or under a wide open receiver. In one instance he had freshmen wide receiver Marquez North wide open behind the secondary for an easy walk-in touchdown, but due to Worley’s under-thrown pass, North had to stop and fall to the ground to make the catch, which led to the Vols having to settle for a field goal.
Tennessee is in a rebuilding process this year. They’ve had to replace their starting quarterback, receivers and tight end on just the offensive side, but as a former Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school, much was expected of Worley who had seen playing time that wasn’t just mop up duty, and even had a start under his belt before the departure last year’s quarterback Tyler Bray.
Coming into the 2013 season Worley had completed 63-of-110 passes for 738 yards with only one touchdown and five interceptions. So far this year he has completed 22-of-32 passes for 246 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, but Tennessee has also yet to get into the major brunt of their schedule.
The bottom line is this: with a new coaching staff and one of, if not the toughest schedules in the nation this year, the Vols have no room for error on their part. They especially can’t afford to have their leader on offense to be off his game if they want to be successful this season.
Tennessee will travel to Eugene, Ore. this Saturday for their first road game of the season to face the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks at 3:30 EDT on ABC.