By Frank Gale
The Vol Nation should be flying pretty high going into week two. Tennessee certainly exceeded most expectations given the uncertainty at wide receiver and a new defense entering the game last Friday night in Atlanta. While we now have some answers, there are still a few lingering questions.
Welcome to Rocky Top Land, Cordarrelle Patterson! (Da’Rick who?) Patterson and his receiving brethren abused State’s defensive backs throughout the night as Tyler Bray passed for two touchdowns and 333 yards. Most of the damage was done at the expense of David Amerson, North Carolina State’s All-American defensive back.
Marlin Lane certainly made a case for his being the featured back, at least until Rajion Neal shows he can run north and south. The running stats were a little deceiving, with Patterson adding a huge chunk of that yardage on a reverse. This week will do little to answer questions about the running game, given the out classed opponent. Those answers will begin to unfold in the next game against Florida in the SEC opener.
While there were mistakes galore on both sides of the ball last week, it was still a great night for the Big Orange Nation, both in the Dome and back home. I know that this was only one game in a schedule full of potential pitfalls, but this game put this team on a positive pathway to have a successful season.
The Vols must now take care of business tomorrow against a huge underdog Georgia State. The Panther’s biggest claim to fame could be their legendary Head Coach Bill Curry. He will be coaching his final game against UT tomorrow, having announced his retirement effective at the end of this season. This is the fourth team he has led into Neyland Stadium during his career. Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky were the others.
Tennessee and Georgia State both opened their respective seasons inside the Georgia Dome last week, but left there headed in opposite directions. The Panthers are licking their wounds from a lopsided loss to South Carolina State, while the Vols are full of confidence after their 35-21 victory over NC State.
Last Friday, the Vols new pressure-oriented defense saw ten players have four or more tackles, with Byron Moore leading the charge with eight solo tackles plus an interception. Expect more of the same this week as the defense becomes more comfortable with Sal Sunseri’s defense.
The biggest question this week is how do the Vols handle success? It was great to see the culmination of their hard work in the off season pay dividends last week in Atlanta. Now, they have to sustain that momentum and keep moving forward.
The big news for Vol fans this weekend from Nashville is Pat Summitt being honored before the NFL Titans season opener. She will be named the 12th Titan and owner Bud Adams will donate $25,000 to the Pat Summitt Foundation to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
By the time the Titans kick off their season, Jim Butler should know if his Commodores will be starting the season 0-2. Vandy has a new theme this year – Anchor Down – perfect to describe that sinking feeling ‘Dore fans usually experience as their football season progresses.
Tomorrow the Vols will need to take care of business early, rest their starters, play as many people as possible and get out of the game without any significant injuries. Do that and the Big Orange will have their 18th consecutive home opening victory. Go Vols!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)