Behind 4 plays of 40+ yards, Tennessee ran up over 500 yards of total offense in Friday night's season-opening 35-21 win over NC State. Tyler Bray spearheaded the attack, throwing for 332 yards and 2 scores without an interception. JUCO transfer wideout Cordarrelle Patterson ignited the UT ground game that was dormant for all of last season with a 67-yard score on an end around, and the Vols complimented Bray's big game with 193 rushing yards en route to snapping a 6-game losing streak in the dome.
When Brandon Bishop dislodged the ball from Bray as he tried to QB sneak it into the endzone just before halftime, it appeared the Wolfpack had wrestled away Tennessee's momentum. After getting stunned for 22 points in the opening frame, NC State managed to close to 22-14 and keep it that way going into intermission when Rickey Dowdy fell on Bray's fumble.
NC State got the second half kickoff and marched down the field, only to have the drive stall when Andrew Wallace was hit with a personal foul call by the SEC screw for an after-whistle shove. From that point on it was all Tennessee. Rajion Neal scored on an 8-yard jaunt and Michael Palardi added 3 more on a 20-yard field goal to push Tennessee's lead to 32-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Bryan Underwood's 5-yard touchdown reception from Mike Glennon, who was 27/46 for 287 yards, cut the lead to 32-21, but NC State turned the ball over far too frequently to mount a serious challenge. Glennon tossed 4 picks, one third of his total for all of 2011, giving the Pack a -3 turnover margin for the game. And that does not count Glennon's fumble that teammate Logan Winkles fell on in the endzone for a Tennessee safety.
Turnovers are an important barometer for NC State; it was +2.25 in turnover margin in wins a year ago and -0.8 in losses. Another key for the Pack is getting pressure on the quarterback, but Bray spent the night comfortably picking apart the secondary from the pocket, getting sacked just once for a 3-yard loss. Tennessee only managed one sack of its own-the 18-yard loss that led to a safety-but its rush did enough to hurry Glennon all night.
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