Vols showcase big-play ability in season opener
Tennessee still has the ability to produce big plays.
Now the Volunteers just have to prove they can do the little things as well.
Tennessee scored three touchdowns from over 40 yards away in the first quarter of its 35-21 season-opening victory over North Carolina State on Friday at the Georgia Dome. In the process, the Vols showed they still had plenty of firepower even without Da'Rick Rogers, a former all-Southeastern Conference receiver who transferred to Tennessee Tech on Monday after being indefinitely suspended.
"There was a lot of pressure because Da'Rick was a heck of a player and I knew people were just looking at me to fill his place," said Cordarrelle Patterson, who replaced Rogers in the starting lineup. "I'm just me."
That was good enough against the Wolfpack.
Patterson, a Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College transfer, caught a 41-yard touchdown pass and scored on a 67-yard reverse against North Carolina State. He gained 165 all-purpose yards and exceeded the considerable buzz that had accompanied his preseason emergence. Patterson's biggest challenge now may be dealing with all the hype sure to come in the wake of this performance.
"When I saw (Peterson's) highlight film, I knew he would be a special player," Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray said. "He is a JUCO kid, so he's been playing for a while. It's not like he's fresh out of high school."
Patterson isn't the Vols' only playmaker.
Zach Rogers provided a 72-yard touchdown reception and Justin Hunter added nine catches for 73 yards in the first quarter as Bray went 27-of-41 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. On each of their touchdown catches, Patterson and Rogers beat All-America cornerback David Amerson, who led the nation with 13 interceptions last season.
Keep in mind that Patterson was making his major-college debut and Hunter was playing his first game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last September. Both should only get better.
"It's unfortunate that Da'Rick had the whole Da'Rick situation, but we're still Tennessee," Zach Rogers said. "We're still a great wide receiving corps without him. We had a little chip on our shoulder."
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley hopes that chip remains in place.
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