John Adams: Vols' impressive victory trumps a lot of bad memories

John Adams
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) looks for a receiver after faking a handoff to Marlin Lane (15) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) looks for a receiver after faking a handoff to Marlin Lane (15) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Recap: Tennessee plays N.C. State

ATLANTA — The talk ended Friday night.

A team that has been insisting all year that better days were ahead brought its words to life against North Carolina State in the Georgia Dome.

The opener was as different from the 5-7 season of 2011 as it was Tennessee's past six ventures in the Georgia Dome.

Tyler Bray completed 27 of 41 passes for 332 yards, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson made a spectacular debut, and a new 3-4 defense produced a safety and four interceptions as UT ended a six-game losing streak in the Georgia Dome with a 35-21 victory in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

UT fans haven't enjoyed a trip to Atlanta this much since they celebrated an SEC championship on the premises in December of 1998. The stadium has been the site of one UT misadventure after another since then.

The Vols went from glaring to glowing in the Georgia Dome on Friday night. They also distanced themselves from all that past futility — of last season and in this building.

The season-ending loss to Kentucky finally can be forgotten. So can All-SEC wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, who parted ways with the team in preseason.

Patterson, Rogers' replacement, was dazzling on a 41-yard touchdown reception when he raced past All-American cornerback David Amerson for UT's first score and later when he ran 67 yards on an end-

around, outrunning Amerson again along the way.

The Vols answered one question after another while dispatching the Wolfpack, who won their last three games to finish 8-5 last season.

n The passing game proved it could get by just fine without Rogers.

n A running game that was so dreadful last season improved as the game went along, totaling 191 yards — UT's highest total since a 41-10 victory over Buffalo in the fourth game of last season.

n The defense had some shaky moments against veteran quarterback Mike Glennon, who passed for 271 yards. But it played with unwavering intensity and created the big plays that coach Derek Dooley had hoped for when he hired Sal Sunseri as his defensive coordinator after last season.

Add up all the improvement, and you had Tennessee's biggest season-opening victory since it beat Cal in 2006 after a 5-6 season the year before. It also was the program's most impressive season-opening victory on the road since 1998 when it defeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

The game was almost as significant for UT's quarterback as its program.

Until Friday night, Bray's biggest victory had been a blowout of Cincinnati last September in Neyland Stadium. His only close-game victory had been against Vanderbilt last season. His most significant road victory had been against Memphis two years ago as a freshman.

Bray didn't just deliver NFL-like passes against N.C. State. He didn't throw an interception, and looked completely in command of coordinator Jim Chaney's offense.

At times, that offense looked as though it might turn the game into a rout. But the Wolfpack was too good for that.

It just wasn't good enough against a team that repeatedly has told anyone who would listen how badly it wanted to put the Tennessee program back on sound footing.

Running back Rajion Neal put that as succinctly and passionately as anyone a couple of weeks ago.

"We've matured," he said. "We've grown. We're ready to come out and show people.

"We're ready to roll."

He was right.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Related Stories

Comments » 14

VolinCalif writes:

John you also called the game pretty close. This is a very good art. to praise this team. And coming from you I think it is great.

Colliervol writes:

Winning can make one forget lots of things. The fact that it was against a good team makes us that much more hopeful. I believe some heads in the SEC and around the nation may have been turned tonite. This team has more weapons than I thought it had. And Bray can't crack the all SEC team? Some folks may look pretty silly when he gives Barkley a run for the #1 draft pick.

volaholic45 writes:

It'll take a long dang time to forget that certain game lost for a shameful and shocking lack of interest, but it sure does feel better for that game to finally not be the Vols most recent one. DR will be forgotten way sooner - whatever happened to him anyway?

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I want to give a shout out to Dooley for foreseeing that Da'Rick might have some more problems and recruiting WRs bigtime including Patterson! ...Loved watching those DBs getting those INTs!...A running game to help run the clock out!...Pressure on QB! They exercised some demons with this win! And they made enough mistakes so that the coaches can yell at them during practice this week! Let's see something we haven't been able to ask in a while: Can they handle success? That's better than: Can they win against a quality team?

Tenn64 writes:

John might just be on the wagon now! I really do think someone has kidnapped the old JA and replaced him with a believer. Keep it up John!

atnvol#283282 writes:

Great win....a moment of pause to think what might have been if Rogers could have behaved....3 wideouts like Patterson, Hunter and DaRick Rogers....unstoppable Vol offense...but I am well pleased with Patterson, Hunter and Zack Rogers. Don't think NC ST all-american was ready for Zack Rogers to torch him....especially cute was the way #1 was waving his hands as Rogers ran into the endzone as if to say he's hot my man!.....great way to start.

LCPanthers (Inactive) writes:

Thanks John for another worth while observation.The first win is always the one to get team on a roll.I wont be happy till Vols
are 4-0 and next would be Bulldogs.There is always room for improvement.
GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

We thought we would have the trio of Bray-Hunter-Rogers being superstars in our offense. That hasnt changed. What does it matter that it was Zach instead of Darick?

I am going to agree with one of the posts on here that asks for us to wait until we dispatch the Gators. To me, personally, true success would mean beating the Gators. Thats when I will be confident that our team is ready. I LOVE the fact that we have improved and look dangerous (especially on defense), dont get me wrong.

But NOTHING brings more satisfaction that beating the Gators.

Go Vols!!!

oskie_score writes:

Hear, hear!
Prior to last night the Vols in recent history were 0-3 to ACC teams. 1 monkey off our backs.
Victory broke the Georgia Dome Hex. Another monkey off our backs.
And, most important,
No major injuries!

Boy, John, the worm has definitely turned for you.

GerryOP writes:

Well naysaying negaVols, what say you? I know it was ONLY NCS, but dadgumit, we won it. Many folks predicted a squeaker win if not a loss. But the Vol faithful knew better.

Ain't nothin' wrong with big play football ... and our Vols made some mighty big plays last night. Hopefully big enough to get everyone looking toward a great Vol future, and not always looking back at our painful past. UT football may not be back yet, but now we know that they are dang sure moving in the right direction. Great job Coach Dooley and OUR Vols!

1-0 baby, on the way to 12-0...

leedsvol2007 writes:

It was a great start to the season but bigger challenges are ahead.

It's obvious the talent, maturity, and depth situation we have faced for the last 2 years is getting much better.

Patterson showed he is big-time and Hunter looked good although a little rusty.

Kick Coverage was much better.

While I don't think we are all the way back we are certainly moving in that direction.

GoVols!

AllVol1 writes:

Great win against a pretty good team. Best part is that we finished the game strong.

D must stop run better. Secondary must not miss assignments. RB's must hit the hole ferociously.

We clean those up and we will hang with everyone on the schedule.

Agree with people looking at FL game as indicator. Next week's game is important not to overlook. We get that game to fine tune our defense and running game. Florida in Neyland is HUGE. HUGE!

GBO!!!

tturley#297658 writes:

One has to applaud Dooley for his off-season coaching moves and artful recruiting, especially the JC talent, CP and Big Mac, who showed they are difference makers. What a fun game that was! Shout out to ZRo for that over the shoulder catch too-- looked like Terry Beasley, AA from Auburn ('71) on that one. Also, shoutout to the DB's who wrested any momentum from State, every time they started to make it interesting. GO VOLS!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My guidance for how to assess this win comes from a quote by Winston Churchill after the Allied victory in North Africa. He said, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning." Dooley's Vols had to build up their numbers, experience, and confidence before they could begin to compete at the highest level. Now that they have some of those, we will see how they stack up against the rest of the league with this revitalized team.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features