This is one of those blogs were I really don’t have anything negative to say. Tennessee went to Atlanta on Friday night and looked completely different than the past two UT squads that have taken the field. Physical defense and big plays dominated the highlights for the Vols as they pounded the North Carolina State Wolfpack 35-21.
The victory marked UT’s first in the famous dome since the 1998 SEC Championship win over Mississippi State. The Vols averaged roughly 20 points per game all of last season. They scored 22 in the 1st Quarter against the Wolfpack. Cordarrelle Patterson, the JUCO transfer from Hutchinson Community College, made the biggest impact for the Vols, hauling in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray on UT’s second drive, then later on in the 1st Quarter he took an end-around to the house for a 67-yard touchdown.
Tyler Bray was the Tyler Bray of old. Has their been a Quarterback for UT in recent memory who makes more big plays than this guy? A 41-yard and 72-yard touchdown pass over N.C. State’s All-American Defensive Back in the first half set the tone for the entire Chick-fil-A Kickoff game early. Bray threw for 333 yards on 27/41 passing.
Remember last year when the Vols came out of the opening game against Montana and the next week against Cincinnati with questions about the running game? After Friday, those questions aren’t being asked to the extremes they were last year. The Vols used a trio of tailbacks to gain a net of 191 yards on the ground, but Marlin Lane stood out as the best of the bunch. Lane carried the football 9 times for 75 yards, one carry of which went for 42 yards. Raijon Neal rushed for 63 yards on 22 carries and 1 touchdown.
The Tennessee defense also made some big plays. They recorded 4 interceptions and a Safety against the Wolfpack’s offense and never really allowed the Wolfpack to get into any type of a rhythm. N.C. State QB Sean Glennon threw for 288 yards, but the 4 interceptions were back breakers for the Wolfpack.
UT came out and sent an early message to the rest of their schedule that this team has the potential to be better than year’s past. The defense played a more physical style and the offense made a return to big plays that we saw toward the end of the 2010 season and early on in 2011. While there are some things the Vols need to polish next week against Georgia State (most notably the running game) they beat a team the caliber of North Carolina State in a place that they haven’t won at in fourteen years. There’s something to say about that.