For the second week in a row, you got exactly what you wanted with plenty of room for improvement. Tennessee did what good teams are supposed to do to FCS opponents: 51 points, 558 yards. They did the specific things we wanted to see: ground game averages 4.3 yards per carry with Rajion Neal and Devrin Young both averaging over five. Defense scored three sacks and two turnovers to continue the pressure. And Mychal Rivera is just fine, thank you (postgame quote of the week: "Last week I was 100%. This week I was 110%.").
And we still see how much room this team still has for growth. The defense held Georgia State to 263 yards but gave up mammoth third down conversions; Third and Chavis has nothing on Third and Georgia State Without Herman Lathers and Curt Maggitt. Both should be ready to go Saturday night, and hopefully many of UT's problems were spacing issues without their leader on the field. We continue to discover imperfection in the kicking game, which led to the removal of Michael Palardy and the insertion of Derrick "Frat House Kicker" Brodus in the second half. I'd raise concerns about having an open competition at this point when kickers are notorious head cases, but ain't no party like an Alcoa party, so my opinion might be a little biased anyway.
If Tyler Bray and his two favorite weapons still have room for growth, I'm not sure that any of us can truly comprehend it right now. The easiest way to talk about Bray's day is to say he threw two incompletions. Two. Justin Hunter tied a school record with three touchdowns on eight catches for 146 yards. And Cordarrelle Patterson, King of the Cutback, is a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. You know that unicorn that Da'Rick Rogers rode out of town on? It may have found its way back to Knoxville after all.
And while we're here, how about a shout out for the offensive line? Has Tyler Bray been knocked down yet on non-quarterback sneaks? Was he touched today? Tennessee's passing game is as dangerous as it's been since 2006, at least. We'll take care of answering that "at least" part next week.
You know what else I enjoyed? The fourth quarter.
One of the best (and hopefully last) signs of a program making its way forward through the sort of adversity we've been dealing with is when your second team looks as good as ours did today. So you get guys like Dontavis Sapp and Willie Bohannon that can slide into the starting lineup and contribute when need be (John Propst was also strong, I thought). You get to say things like, "Hey, that Quenshaun Watson guy might be good for us next year," instead of having to have him be good right now. And you can put a secondary of Daniel Gray, Deion Bonner, LaDarrell McNeil and Geraldo Orta on the field after you've already scored 50 points instead of before. (Honorable Mention: Daniel Hood's kick return, perhaps the most entertaining of the day in a crowded field.)
Tennessee's second team is more than warm bodies. They're the future we get to see after putting an FCS foe to bed, some real talent that can grow into a real football team in years to come, and also step in when their number gets called due to fatigue or injury and not have everything fall apart.
The signs are there, from an elite QB/WR combo down to the bottom of the depth chart. The potential for growth is still there. Everything you wanted Tennessee to be after two games is there.
So we applaud that, give thanks for escaping without injury today, and now turn our attention to the longest Sunday-Friday of the year.
Because the one we've been waiting for is just six days away.