A flurry of explosive offensive plays in the first half and a defense that intercepted North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon four times steered Tennessee to a season-opening 35-21 victory on Friday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.
The Vols’ pass defense looked shaky early, but they regrouped and held the Wolfpack to just one touchdown in the second. Glennon was repeatedly harassed by Tennessee’s pressure, and Prentiss Waggner, Brian Randolph, Eric Gordon and Marsalis Teague all had interceptions for the Vols.
Tennessee rolled up 528 yards of total offense and won the battle up front most of the night.
It was over when: Tennessee held North Carolina State on fourth-and-9 with a little more than five minutes to play. Glennon’s pass sailed incomplete. The Vols took over at the Wolfpack 39 and moved into position for Michael Palardy's 35-yard field goal to build a two-touchdown lead with fewer than two minutes to play.
Game ball goes to: Cordarrelle Patterson showed off in his debut for the Vols. The junior college newcomer caught a 41-yard touchdown pass and also ran for a 67-yard touchdown on a reverse where he made a wicked cut across the field and then out-ran everybody, including North Carolina State All-America cornerback David Amerson, to the end zone.
Stat of the game: The Vols just missed 200 yards rushing and averaged 5.1 yards per carry after finishing 116th nationally out of 120 teams in rushing offense last season.
Star watch: Amerson, who had 13 interceptions last season for the Wolfpack, had a forgettable outing. He was beaten twice on long touchdown passes by Patterson and Zach Rogers and also couldn’t catch Patterson on his long touchdown run.
What it means for Tennessee: The Vols absolutely had to have this game, especially with Florida coming to Knoxville in two weeks. Neyland Stadium is sure to be rocking for the Gators’ visit, and this appears to be a Tennessee team that could make some noise in the East race this season.
What it means for North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have to get better up front offensively, and Glennon needs to get over this one in a hurry. After a good start, he appeared to lose his poise after making some poor throws on interceptions. The Wolfpack were forced to throw it 48 times. They’ve got to find some better balance on offense.