Vols look vintage in victory
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
University of Tennessee fans were craving old school Tennessee football — they’d had enough of the new school.
The Vols got back to looking — if only for 60 minutes on a season-opening Friday night in Atlanta — remarkably like the Tennessee of old.
Maybe it didn’t look quite like the Tennessee teams that went 45-5 over a 50 game stretch from 1995 to1998. But the on-field product looked like a far cry from the teams that combined to go 23-27 in Tennessee’s last 50 games.
Tennessee responded when it needed to respond, found runs when it needed to run and held an NFL-caliber quarterback in North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon in check in a 35-21 win that, if nothing else, answered a lot of questions and brought up a lot of firsts.
The firsts just kept coming early on.
Firsts like Tennessee’s 22 points in the first quarter, the most to start a game since a 35-point opening quarter against Arkansas in 2000.
It was the most in any quarter for the Vols since a 23-point third quarter in a 50-0 win over UT Martin in 2010, when Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was making his Tennessee debut.
Or firsts like Curt Maggitt’s forced fumble-turned-safety for a 15-7 first quarter lead. It was the Vols’ first two-pointer since 2010, again, in the 50-0 win over UT Martin.
The aggressiveness Sal Suneri’s 3-4 scheme brought, pressuring and knocking down Glennon on more than a few occasions, brought back memories of old.
Cordarrelle Patterson’s 67-yard touchdown run on a wide receiver reverse was another firsts of it’s kind of late — it was Tennessee’s longest run from scrimmage since 2006. LaMarcus Coker scored on an 89-yard run in a win over Vanderbilt that year.
Patterson had 93 yards on six catches by halftime of his highly-anticipated Tennessee debut. There’s no first for a UT receiver going over 100 yards in his UT debut — it’s never happened in Tennessee’s football history.
He had 160 all-purpose yards at halftime (combing his 93 yards receiving with the 67-yard touchdown run). He finished with 187 total yards on the night.
Tennessee stopped the run too, another sign of a team more like teams of old. N.C. State had just 119 yards on 32 carries (that’s 3.7 yards per attempt).
The Vols running the ball has seen better days, but Friday night was far from the worst.
Tennessee used five players to combine for 216 rushing yards, a much bigger number than those seen last season, when the Vols averaged 90 yards rushing per game, good for 116th in the Football Bowl Subdivision’s 120 teams.
Marlin Lane, who was the third running back coming out off call camp, was a breath of fresh air in the second half, including a 42-yarder to set Tennessee up for points.
Tyler Bray’s fumble lost on a quarterback sneak on the goal line to end the first half was classic Vols in the Dooley era.
Tennessee’s response, a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive — converting four third downs along the way — to go up 29-14 after a N.C. State three-and-out started the second half? That’s another first, at least in the Dooley era.
Tennessee’s secondary had nine interceptions all of last year. The Vols picked off Glennon three times Friday night.
And that old stat about the cursed Georgia Dome? The one where Tennessee hadn’t won a game in Atlanta since the ‘98 SEC title game? That one was exorcised, too. The Vols had lost five-straight games inside the Dome (two SEC title games and three Chick-fil-A Bowl games). And put an end to Tennessee’s haunted ACC losing streak (including Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland and Clemson in the last decade).
Maybe Friday night inside the Dome was more like the Tennessee teams from the early 2000s, when Tennessee went 34-14 from 2000 to 2003. Or the mid-2000s, when the Vols went 35-14 from 2004 or 2007.
Either way, the win had to bring back memories for Tennessee fans — and no, not the bad ones.
Grant Ramey is a sportswriter for The Daily Times, who covers the Vols. Follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports.