Recap: Tennessee plays N.C. State
Tennessee Stat Book
ATLANTA — When Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson scored a touchdown five minutes into his FBS debut, coach Derek Dooley wasn't quite sure his top recruit was even running the right play.
"It was a real ugly route," teammate Justin Hunter said with a smile after the Vols defeated N.C. State 35-21 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome on Friday night.
After the game, a beaming Patterson could only laugh when asked if he was running the right route on that 41-yard touchdown. "Oh yeah, of course!" he said.
A receiver like Patterson can get away with a lot. By the end of his first quarter as a Vol, he picked up a second touchdown, this one on a 67-yard end around. He finished his debut with six receptions, 93 yards and those two big scores.
But Dooley said much of the credit goes to quarterback Tyler Bray, who found a way to get the ball in the hands of a tremendous athlete still adapting to an SEC offense.
"That's the beauty of Bray," Dooley said.
Bray promised that the Vols would attack N.C. State All-American cornerback David Amerson just as they did any other defensive back. He wasn't lying. Tennessee burned Amerson twice, and Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said there was no magic.
"He just got ran by," O'Brien said. "Those wide receivers, they're good. They're big and they can run."
O'Brien said his team didn't know what to expect from Patterson. His only film was from high school and junior college. All they knew was that he would play a bigger role after Da'Rick Rogers left the team last week.
"Holy cow, if they would have had (Rogers) with all those other guys out there ... that's some great skill," O'Brien said.
After watching Patterson in practice all summer, Bray said the debut was no surprise.
"As soon as I saw his highlight film, I knew he was going to be special," Bray said.
Patterson stole the show in the first half, but the steady work of Hunter carried the Vols after halftime. Hunter, returning from an ACL injury that ended his 2011 season prematurely, caught nine passes for 73 yards. He said the game shook off any remaining rust from his long absence.
"That's all in the past after this week," he said.
For all the talk about big plays, it was a methodical, 14-play, 87-yard drive in the third quarter that might have been most damaging to N.C. State's hopes.
"We did grind out some first downs, which kept shrinking the game," Dooley said.
Zach Rogers, Jacob Carter, Ben Bartholomew and Mychal Rivera also caught passes. Hunter said he thought two big targets and a large supporting cast would help keep opponents honest.
"People aren't going to be able to double me. They're going to have to focus on (Patterson) too," Hunter said.
And if Patterson isn't running exactly where coaches want him to? Bray can still find him.
"Bray don't care," Dooley said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat