By William Earl Hampton
It took 11 years and seven attempts, but Tennessee finally got a win in the Georgia Dome, when it defeated North Carolina State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The Volunteers took control early, with a 22 point in the first quarter, something they had not done in over a decade. On offense, the Vols were led by Quarterback Tyler Bray, who threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns, and transfer Wide Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson scored two touchdowns in his first half as a Volunteer. Tennessee’s defense also impressed, recording four interceptions and a safety.
Tennessee’s solid performance put to rest several concerns Volunteer fans had developed during the off-season. Bray was widely criticized for two public incidents that had many questioning his maturity heading into the season. Fan favorite Wide Receiver Da’Rick Rogers, who led the SEC in repceptions last season, was suspended indefinitely from the team for violation of team rules. Many worried if Tennessee was going to be able to put as many points on the board as expected.
That question was answered again Saturday when Georgia State traveled to Knoxville for the first time. Tyler Bray had another big week through the air throwing for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Justin Hunter. Rajion Neal rushed for two touchdowns and solidified his position as the starting tailback after playing wide receiver, tailback, and wildcat quarterback last season. For the first time since 2000, the Volunteers had more than 500 yards of offense in back-to-back weeks.
On defense, the Volunteers forced seven fumbles, and held Georgia State scoreless until well into the fourth quarter.
But not every part of the performance was perfect, and a few new concerns emerged. The defense allowed Georgia State to convert two third down plays of more than 15 yards, and allowed a fourth down conversion. Extra-point attempts were missed in each game. And the team seemed a little flat last week. “We came out and we didn’t have the spunk I was hoping to have,” said Head Coach Derek Dooley.
This Saturday, the Volunteers open SEC play, hosting the 18th ranked Florida Gators who are coming off a tough road win at Texas A&M.
- Insider: Florida vs. Tennessee Preview (sportstalkflorida.com)