Justin Hunter: all he does is catch touchdowns. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
Tyler Bray threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns, three to
Jason James Justin Hunter, to lead Tennessee past Georgia State 51-13 Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Bray completed 18 of 20 passes and didn't miss a throw after the first quarter. Eight of those completions went to Hunter, who racked up 146 yards and became the first Volunteer wideout since Chris Hannon in 2003 to snag three touchdown catches in one game.
The game was never in doubt, as the Vols racked up 560 yards of offense and led 28-6 at halftime and 41-6 midway through the third quarter when the first-stringers began parading to the benches. Cordarrelle Patterson turned in another solid performance, with 71 yards receiving, 18 rushing, and one 61-yard kick return, Mychal Rivera caught four balls for 70 yards and a TD, and Rajion Neal ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
But it wasn't all sunshine for Tennessee on a rainy day in Knoxville. When you're favored by 50 points against an FCS opponent, you'd like to clear the benches a little earlier than mid-third quarter. The running game, while putting up a solid 5.0 yards per carry (sacks/kneeldowns excluded), wasn't as dominant as they should be against an overmatched opponent. The defense, missing starting linebackers Curt Maggitt and Herman Lathers, again looked sloppy early in the game, allowing Georgia State to extend their first drive--finishing with a field goal--after facing two instances of 3rd and roughly 20. They would give up over 250 yards and not record their first turnover until the fourth quarter. And getting booed by the home crowd, which Michael Palardy experienced after missing a field goal and an extra point, is never fun.
Despite the bumps in the road, Tennessee was able to win comfortably, rest starters, and get plenty of experience for backups. True freshman Justin King, a high school quarterback, spent a few plays running the option out of the Wildcat, redshirt freshman Geraldo Orta grabbed a pick, Quenshaun Watson, running behind the second string line, showed the speed Tennessee signed him for, adding 44 yards and a touchdown on eight touches, and walk-on placekicker Derrick Brodus elicited one of the biggest cheers of the day on a short field goal in the 4th quarter. Justin Worley finished 4 of 8 for 64 yards, with one interception on a ball batted on the line of scrimmage. It's worth noting that freshman DT Omari "Dante" Phillips saw snaps late in the game, ending speculation that he may be a redshirt candidate.
Ultimately, Tennessee won, didn't sustain any injuries, and didn't show anything to Florida. The Vols will have plenty to work on in practice, and shouldn't have to worry about coming in overconfident next Saturday, but they did what they needed to do. Now it matters. Beat Florida.