Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray started Game 2 against Georgia State hot, completing five of his first seven passes. Incredibly, he was about to get a whole lot hotter.
The 6-foot-6 junior completed his final 13 attempts, finishing 18 of 20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns before sitting out the last 20 minutes of Tennessee's 51-13 romp. It was remarkably reminiscent of last season's Game 2, when he completed 34 of 41 attempts for 405 yards and four TDs in a 45-23 beat-down of Cincinnati.
Like Cincy, Georgia State had no one who could cover Justin Hunter. The guy who burned the Bearcats for 10 catches and 156 yards in Game 2 of 2011 was just as dynamic in Game 2 of 2012, notching 8 receptions for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Vol fans can only hope the similarities between Game 2 of last season and Game 2 of this season do not extend to Game 3. Hunter tore an ACL in the first quarter of Game 3 last season and the Vols lost 33-23 to Florida. That's a sobering thought, especially with Florida being the Game 3 opponent again this season.
Despite the 38-point victory margin against Georgia State, the Big Orange will have to play considerably better to snap the Gators' seven-game winning streak in the series. Tennessee continues to struggle in short-yardage situations. For the second week in a row the Vols incurred a false-start penalty on first-and-goal at the opponent's 3-yard line. For the second week in a row the Vols botched a conversion kick. Michael Palardy also missed a 39-yard field goal try before giving way to walk-on Derrick Brodus, who hit a 25-yard field goal and made his only PAT attempt. For the second week in a row the secondary gave up some big pass plays in the first half before locking down a bit after intermission.
Of course, Tennessee did some good things, too. Rajion Neal averaged 5.0 yards per carry (65 yards on 13 rushes) and Devrin Young averaged 5.8 ypc (46 yards on 8 attempts). The Vols put up 558 yards of total offense, hitting the 500 mark in consecutive games for the first time since the 2000 season.
|Vol quarterback Tyler Bray had more touchdown passes (4) than incompletions (2).|
While the occasional sustained touchdown drive of 10 to 12 plays is nice, it's hard to fault Tennessee for being explosive. The quick-striking Vols had scoring drives of 40 yards in two plays, 73 yards in four plays, 79 yards in three plays, 72 yards in six plays and 62 yards in four plays.
Simply put, facing the likes of Georgia State is a no-win proposition. If you dominate from start to finish folks say you exploited an overmatched foe; if you win by a smaller margin than expected folks say you took the opponent lightly and just went through the motions.
Ultimately, all that matters is this: Tennessee took care of business and carries a 2-0 record into what projects to be a season-defining game against Florida.
Offensive MVP: When a guy is as close to perfect as Bray was against Georgia State, everyone else is fighting for second place. Hunter was outstanding, too, but benefited from soft coverage. Tight end Mychal Rivera deserves a plug after catching four balls for 70 yards and a touchdown on his 22nd birthday. In addition to his 46 rushing yards, Young posted a 35-yard punt return. Cordarrelle Patterson is worthy of mention, as well, even though his biggest play was a 61-yard kickoff return. CP caught three passes for 71 yards and raced 18 yards on an option pitch that Florida's coaches will be replaying over and over and over in the film room this week.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Willie Bohannon made just 2 tackles in the game but still had a major impact on its outcome. One of his tackles was a fumble-causing sack. In addition, he recovered a fumble and registered 2 hurries. End Corey Miller also made his plays count, numbering a sack and one-half of a tackle for loss among his 6 stops. Safety Brian Randolph shared the team lead in tackles for the second game in a row with 7 and also contributed a pass breakup. Reserve linebacker Channing Fugate also registered 7 stops and Eric Gordon had another good day at the "star" position, contributing 6 tackles.