Yeah, I got sucked in. I was a believer. Tennessee’s electric offense had me dreaming. That Friday night opening game against N.C. State in the Georgia Dome sold me on a potential return to greatness, even if it was Derek Dooley at the helm. We all know how it fell apart, but just for a little bit the hype train was rolling at Tennessee for the first time since the Fulmer era.
Tyler Bray was a legitimate gunslinger — in every sense of the word. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane Jr. could tote the rock, and that group of receivers was special. Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Rogers and Mychal Rivera paired with Tyler Bray had the potential to be lethal with Bray under center.
Tennessee had just hired Sal Sunseri to take over the defense. Everyone knew the offense wouldn’t be the problem. It was the defense that was going to determine how the 2012 season went — along with the fate of Derek Dooley. Dooley’s seat was on fire after losing to Kentucky, who rolled out a receiver to play quarterback and beat the Vols for the first time in nearly 30 years in 2011.
For that one night though, Tennessee was fun again. Bray opened the game with a 41 yard touchdown to Patterson, who instantly became a fan favorite.
After an N.C State touchdown, Bray came back with a 72 yard score to Zach Rogers. This was the second time Bray and company dismantled David Amerson, who was thought of as a top ten NFL prospect at the time.
Then Cordarrelle scored on a 72 yard reverse. This moment was probably the most irrationally excited about Tennessee football as I had been in years. Cordarrelle Patterson was instantly everyone’s favorite player. I’d never seen anyone so dynamic, oozing with raw football ability in the open field.
Mike Glennon threw four picks that night, propping up what would become an absolutely atrocious group on defense. Tennessee went on to win 35-21, in a game that was nowhere close to what the score indicated.
This team finished 5-7, but if you just watched this game alone you would have come away convinced that they could contend for a title. This explosive, weird, dominant Friday night in Atlanta turned out to be fool’s gold, but man oh man it was fun.