Tyler Bray Begins third season as UT quarterback

Tyler Bray begins his third season as quarterback for the Vols this year. The 6’6 sociology major has a bright future ahead of him as he is already being scouted by the NFL. He is considered one of the top NFL quarterback prospects of the 2013 draft.

As a senior at Kingsburg High School in Kingsburg, California, Bray led his team to a perfect 13-0 season while throwing for 3,321 yards with 41 touchdowns. While being recruited by the Vols, he was considered the seventh best pro-style quarterback recruit by Rivals.com, and 26th best by Scout.com.

During his Freshman season in 2010, Bray played in the UT Martin, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina games, throwing 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions and 303 yards. In his first starting game Bray threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns in the 50-14 win over the Memphis Tigers ending the Vols four game losing streak. Bray set a school record for most passing yards in the first half going 19-33 with 308 yards through the air and 5 touchdowns.

The next week against Ole Miss, Bray finished 18-34 for 323 yards and 5 Touchdowns as the Vols routed the Rebels 52-14. The next week, the Vols faced Vanderbilt. Bray went 16-27 for 2 Touchdowns and 2 interceptions as they beat the Commodores 24-10. During the final home game against Kentucky Bray went 20-38 for 354 yards and had 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, the Vols won 24-14. Bray led the Vols to a 4-0 record in November, making them bowl eligible at 6-6. Tennessee was selected to play in the Music City Bowl in Nashville against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tennessee lost 30-27 in 2 overtimes. Bray finished the day 27-45 for 312 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He threw for 1,537 yards, setting a new school record for freshmen, and scored 17 touchdowns.

Bray began the 2011 season leading back-to-back victories  over Montana and Cincinnati. Bray completed 17-24 passes while throwing for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns during the opener against Montana as the Vols won 42-16. The next week against Cincinnati, Bray improved upon this by completing 34-41 passes for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Vols won 45-23, breaking Peyton Manning’s record by throwing at least two touchdown passes in 8 consecutive games. Bray also had the highest the completion percentage ever recorded in a game by a Tennessee QB of 82.9%. Breaking Manning’s record of 77.5% set as a senior against Georgia in 1997.

Unfortunately, the Vols were unable to sustain their early season momentum. In the third game of the season, the Vols were faced with the Florida Gators, a team Tennessee had not beaten in six years. Compounding Tennessee’s  challenges was a game changing injury sustained by sophomore receiver Justin Hunter who went down with a torn ACL. The loss of Hunter combined with a stellar Gator offense resulted in a Tennessee loss to Florida 31-21. Bray finished the day 26-48 for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions.

The following week, the Vols took on Buffalo and cruised to an easy victory, 41-10, as Bray threw for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Georgia Bulldogs was next on the Vols schedule. Hunter was out for the season and things were about to get worse for the Vols.

Late in the game, Bray broke his thumb and could not return until the week of the Vanderbilt game. The Vols lost 20-12 as Bray threw for 251 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, with Matt Simms assuming the starting role late in the game. Because of his injury Bray would not play in the next 5 games (against LSU, 2011, South Carolina, Middle Tennessee, and Arkansas). The Vols would go 1-4 during this run as senior quarterback Matt Simms and freshman quarterback Justin Worley struggles but failed to deliver. Tyler Bray came back during the Vanderbilt week and led the Vols to an upset win against the Commodores. Bray finished the day 16-33 for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. The Vols won 27-21 in OT.

The final game of the season had the Vols playing the Kentucky Wildcats with much on the line for both teams. The Wildcats were looking to break a 25 year losing streak to the Vols, the longest such streak in collge football history. Conversely, the Vols were looking for a sixth win of the season which would make them bowl eligible. Unfortunately, the Vols were upset by the Wildcats, 10-7. Their quest for a bowl appearance was vanquished and the Vols ended the season with 5-7 record.

By Michael Williams

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