Tyler Bray may be America's most inept goal-line running back.
At the end of the first half of Tennessee's game against North Carolina State in Atlanta on Friday night, Bray received the snap a foot shy of the goal line from under center. What Bray was supposed to do was fall in a gap, just lurch forward with the ball, and then allow gravity and his 6'6 frame to complete the easy carry. Play tree, you can hear Derek Dooley saying to him, because Derek Dooley is the kind of coach who would totally say something this weird.
Tyler Bray may also be America's worst falling tree.
Rather than simply smash forward, Bray instead rose, half-stumbled, and then, in a moment somewhere between fugue state and stimulus response, he extended the ball forward and into the swatting hands of Wolfpack defenders. It popped loose, N.C. State recovered, and, on the way to the locker room with a 22-14 lead, Bray did what any failed goal-line back would do: crack his helmet against the side of his head in frustration, and remind youngsters by negative example of improper helmet-smashing technique.*
*Like Owen Schmitt, West Virginia's legendary fullback: across the front of the head to minimize brain rattle and maximize blood. I told you Tyler Bray was horrible at this.
Tyler Bray is, however, a really good quarterback, and a very specific kind of good quarterback. On Friday night in the Georgia Dome, a lesser Tennessee quarterback might notice the surroundings: a building where Tennessee last won in its title year of 1998, where Erik Ainge ended his cursed monkey's paw of a career by throwing a game-killing INT directly into the hands of an LSU defender. There are dead bluetick hounds in the rafters only Tennessee fans can see.
This would terrify someone with a memory. Luckily, Tyler Bray doesn't even remember what we were just talking about here.
"That's the best part about Bray," Dooley twanged in the postgame press conference. "He don't care."
He don't care, or maybe he has no memory, but be clear on this: Bray may be the closest living football thing to Dory the Fish from Finding Nemo. Justin Hunter runs the wrong route? Bray blinks and throws to him for a first down. A horrendous wormburner of a throw on second down, wide of everything but the hash marks? BLIP. A hard reboot later, and Bray tosses casually for a first down.
It may not have even been personal, or at least as impersonal as the repeated incinerations of N.C. State cornerback David Amerson could have been. Bray might not even have remembered heaving a deep ball on a double move to Cordarrelle Patterson, who burst into the light in his own way, and then going after him again, and again.
It may have just been that, on every play that Bray took the snap, he looked Patterson's way and said, "Hey, that dude's relationship status with football tonight is 'it's complicated.'" And then out flew the ball, and onward moved the chains, and click went the cameras taking the goofy shots of Tyler Bray wearing the leather helmet of victory Chick-Fil-A makes players pose in during the postgame grip-and-grins with sponsors.
NC State as a football has problems--turnovers being issue number one, with Mike Glennon throwing four INTs on the night. Based on the one game data set you have it would be wise not to get too enthused about running roughshod over a non-conference opponent in a netural site game. It would be wise to not get too excited since Bray--who did not throw an INT tonight--has in the past turned that complete lack of memory into a liability, forgetting that throwing to the other team is bad on multiple occasions. Tennessee has a defense, and it gave up over 200 yards in the first half. They have a running game, and it goes sideways more than it should.
You might also remember that deep ball to Patterson, the JUCO replacement for the jettisoned Da'Rick Rogers. On a bombshot worthy of Rex Grossman or Ryan Mallett, the ball left Bray's hand almost casually, thrown the way you might heave a beer to friend across a room, with just a hint of three-quarter delivery. It landed on target and on schedule, softly, and just a half-step ahead of Patterson, the ball falling into the receiver's hands with its own strange magnetism.
You should remember that when thinking about how good (and how utterly entertaining) this team could be. You should also remember it for Tyler Bray, because he forgot it happened seconds after it landed, and then kept on forgetting until he had two TDs and 333 yards passing on the night, and Tennessee had a 35-21 win. He remains a terrible goal-line running back and is a failure of a falling tree, but neither of those is what Tennessee needs in 2012.
What these Vols need is a brilliant amnesiac quarterback, and, fortunately, they have one.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel: