Quick Summary: Records fell, defense was almost non-existent, but in the end, Tennessee scored last and came away with an exhausting 55-48 win over Troy (4-5, 3-3 Sun Belt) in a game that went four hours.
Both teams struggled to get stops all afternoon. Quarterback Tyler Bray lit up the Trojans, completing 29-of-47 passes for 530 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, but it was Cordarrelle Patterson (nine catches, 219 yards, one TD) and Justin Hunter (nine catches, 181 yards, three TDs) who stole the show.
Running back Marlin Lane added 163 yards all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Vols (4-5, 3-5 SEC) played perhaps the worst game in program history. They conceded 48 points, 721 yards of offense and allowed Troy to convert 10 of 19 third-down conversions (52.6 percent), several of which came on third-and-long situations.
Troy held a 48-41 lead with just more than three minutes left. The Vols stormed right back to tie it at 48 after a 46-yard touchdown strike from Bray to Hunter. The Vols finally got a key stop on defense, took the ball back and drove for what proved to be the game-winning score.
It was over when: Running back Marlin Lane scored on a nine-yard touchdown with 1:25 remaining in the game to give the Vols a 55-48 lead. Troy got one last possession, but the Trojans were never able to get within scoring range.
Tennessee player of the game: Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson could fill an entire highlight reel with his plays against Troy. The Trojans struggled to get him on the ground all day after he made receptions. He finished the afternoon with nine receptions for 219 yards – an average of 24.3 yards per reception – and a touchdown.
Troy players of the game: The quarterback duo of Corey Robinson and Deon Anthony had a huge day for the Trojans. Robinson, the passer of the duo, completed 30 of 46 passes for 393 yards and a touchdown. Anthony, the runner, threw for 103 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 51 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
Unsung hero: Tennessee running back Marlin Lane did a nice job filling in for the still-recovering Rajion Neal. Neal played a limited number of snaps but was still not back to 100 percent because of his ankle injury. Lane finished the game with 19 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Credit the Vols’ offensive line for paving some room for Lane and for protecting quarterback Tyler Bray well.
Three stats of note:
1. Troy piled up 721 yards of total offense: That’s a new record for any team playing the Vols in the history of the program. “It was just bad defense,” Dooley said after the game. You think, coach? The Trojans came in with a high-powered offense, but nobody really expected it to be that bad.
2. Tennessee had 718 yards of total offense: Another record for the Vols. As bad as the defense was, credit the offense for scoring enough to keep the Vols in the game and then getting a score when it really needed to at the end. “That’s a huge stat line,” Dooley said.
3. Troy converted 10 of 19 third-down attempts: The Vols struggled to get off the field all day. Troy converted multiple third-and-longs with Tennessee struggling to make tackles.
Where does Tennessee go from here?: It’s a win, but it’s a step back as a team. Dooley will feel the heat even more despite getting the victory. The Vols have tried about everything they can on defense, but nothing has worked. Dooley needs to have some solutions in place with a Missouri team coming to Knoxville next week that played its best game of the season in a 14-7 loss at Florida on Saturday.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.