In the second installment of the Ten Greatest Tennessee Games of the Past Decade series, I’ll be revisiting the Vols’ 2012 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Check out RTT’s Terry Lambert’s No.10: Music City Bowl Win Over Nebraska here.
I can remember almost every storyline heading into this game. How will new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 defense perform? Will Tyler Bray take the next step? How will the Vols defend Mike Glennon and who will have to matchup with the great David Amerson?
Everyone knew the offense was going to put up points with Bray, Justin Hunter, newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson, Rajion Neal, and Marlin Lane. Tiny Richardson and Ju’Wuan James anchored the line. The defense was the biggest question heading into 2012.
It didn’t take long to get answers to these questions as the Vols absolutely throttled the Wolfpack, 35-21 in Atlanta.
The defense absolutely obliterated Glennon and co., while Patterson ran wild, recording 165 yards from scrimmage and scoring two touchdowns. Both scores came from 40+ yards out.
That 41-yard beauty was the first score of the game. Both Patterson and Bray looked to have an immediate connection - causing Vols fans everywhere to go nuts. N.C. State did come right back and score to take the lead 7-6, but Tennessee wouldn’t let that keep them down.
The Vols were able to intercept Glennon on a drive deep into UT territory before Bray hit Zach Rogers for a 72-yard touchdown to give the Vols back the lead. A fumble that rolled out of the endzone for a safety then led to Patterson’s 67-yard touchdown scamper.
The Vols scored 16 points in 38 seconds. Before the Wolfpack could blink, UT was up 22-7.
As mentioned earlier, everyone knew that the offense was capable of, but what gave this season so much hope in the earliest of stages was how good the defense looked. Glennon was highly regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the country coming into 2012 and the Vols made him look terrible.
He finished with 287 yards on 27-of-46 passing with four interceptions and one touchdown. The Vols recorded just nine interceptions in all of 2011.
The dominating victory was by far Derek Dooley’s shining moment during a tenure of not-so-shiny ones. From instructing players on how to bathe properly, to comparing himself and his players to the Nazis during WWII, to having too many men on the field against an SEC rival - you name it, the Dooles will forever live in - some kind - of UT lore.
This wonderful feeling soon faded as the Vols trounced on to one of the worst seasons in program history. Sunseri’s defense fell flat on its face and the Vols had some of the worst performances in history in 2012.
And we thought things couldn’t get any worse then. I’d sell my left foot for a 5-7 season in 2017.
If only the rest of 2012 could’ve followed the pattern of this game.