ATLANTA — One data point is almost worse than none, honestly. We’ve said all summer that we don’t know what to make of this Tennessee team, thanks to a 2011 season rendered almost entirely useless for data-collecting purposes by injuries. After seeing the Vols conquer North Carolina State 35-21, we still know practically nothing, and Derek Dooley will be the first to point that out. [RECAP | BOX SCORE]
“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0, and we have to clean up a ton of mistakes.”
That to-fix list surprisingly contains no interceptions from junior quarterback Tyler Bray, who displayed some wonky mechanics at times but played a fairly clean game with big results, completing 27-of-41 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. What could have been a third touchdown, depending on where you were sitting in the stadium when Bray attempted a poorly considered quarterback sneak, was ruled a fumble in the waning seconds of the first half.
Tennessee did put one looming question to rest Friday night, in the matter of Da’Rick Rogers’ recently vacated Z receiver position. Juco import Cordarrelle Patterson blew past All-America corner David Amerson for the game’s first score three-and-a-half minutes into the game and added another touchdown on a 67-yard end-around in the first quarter’s final minute. Patterson had six catches for 93 yards and 72 yards on the ground. Dooley, sticking to this one data point, assessed Patterson thusly: “He’s big and fast and can catch the ball.” We cannot argue with his logic. Justin Hunter, in his first game since tearing his ACL in Week 3 last season, had nine catches for 73 yards.
Amerson would be outmatched again in the first quarter, losing out to Zach Rogers on a 72-yard touchdown catch that set off a 16-point Tennessee scoring burst (touchdown, safety, Patterson’s scoring run) to end the period. Asked after the game if he felt he’d been targeted, the 2011 national interceptions leader agreed, “I guess you could say so.”