Tennessee Stat Book
Tyler Bray broke a Tennessee record for passing yardage with 530 and came within 14 yards of the all-time SEC record set by Georgia's Eric Zeier 19 years ago against Southern Mississippi.
Was he conscious of his impending historic performance during the game?
"I knew we were down seven points with three minutes to go," Bray said flatly. "I could care less about breaking records. We needed to get a win."
Bray could relate to coach Derek Dooley's comments a few minutes earlier. If an ugly victory seems bad, imagine the alternative.
Tennessee nearly lost a game in which its offense put up unthinkable numbers, its quarterback made history and its two top receivers seemed to toy with the opposing defense.
Instead, Tennessee beat Troy 55-48 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, allowing the Vols to savor a brilliant performance by the offense while briefly overlooking the woeful play on the other side of the ball.
How incredible was Tennessee's offense? The Vols had 718 total yards, which is 9.4 per play and 32 yards per minute of possession.
"This is the first time I've been in a game so high-scoring, with so many yards on both sides," said Tennessee center James Stone.
The offensive line played well again, and Bray was quick to credit the big men in front of him, but it was the Vols' playmakers that stood out.
Receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter combined for 18 catches, 400 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that might never be repeated again.
"We were talking about having 100 apiece, but we didn't expect this," Patterson said.
"Surprises happen," added Hunter.
The Vols were able to victimize Troy in much the same way other teams have exploited Tennessee's defense.
Bray said Troy's outside defensive backs were giving a big cushion early, allowing him to find receivers for short passes and over the middle of the field. When Troy adjusted, the Vols took long shots down the field.
"We have two NFL-caliber receivers," Bray said. "We've just got to get them the ball and they're going to make plays."
Patterson's plays were again of the highlight-reel variety. Former Tennessee running back Tauren Poole tweeted that Patterson runs like a zigzagged line on an Etch-a-Sketch.
"When he has the ball, there's no telling where he's going to go," said sophomore running back Marlin Lane. "I just run down and try to block and get him in the end zone.
"He's a smart guy. He knows what moves to make if he needs to cut across the grain. They just let him do it when the ball is in his hands."
Lane said coaches give Patterson more leeway because of his talent.
"I'm a running back, so I have to go north and south," Lane said. "He gets to go east and west."
Asked if he ever surprises himself by the cuts he's able to make on the field, Patterson considered the question for a moment before answering.
"Yes, it is kind of a surprise because of how big I am," he said. "I don't think I'm supposed to be able to do things like that."
Patterson was so gassed that he was given an IV at halftime. He ran back onto the field just after kickoff in the third quarter.
But it didn't seem to affect his play.
"He has one big game, and he thinks he's a big man," Hunter joked as he sat at the same podium with Patterson. "This is my boy right here. I always get excited when he does something good. I think it is vice versa. We just have fun out there."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.