The countdown to the opener of the Tennessee Volunteer football team’s first game always seems to drag on. Waiting through the summer months can be a dreadful and stressful time for any Vols fan. UT fans are some of the most dedicated to their team. Wednesday before the game many students camped outside of the University Center on campus just to get good seats to watch the Vols in action. The big orange faithful were rewarded for their wait Friday night in Atlanta. The Tennessee Vols beat a very talented N.C. State team 35 to 21 in the Chick-Fil-a Kickoff game. The Vols had not won in the Georgia Dome since 1998. The Dome was rocking and full of orange spirit. Third year Head Coach Derek Dooley even tripped running out of the tunnel for warm-ups, but did not miss a beat. We can say it was maybe from excitement or maybe it was nerves. Either way, Coach Dooley is undefeated in the Georgia Dome.
There has been a buzz around this Volunteer squad for a while now, and there have been many questions surrounding this team. Will we see the Justin Hunter of old? Is Cordarrelle Patterson the real deal? Can we run the 3-4 defense efficiently and effectively? Will this veteran offensive line have their break out year? It is hard to answer all of these questions after just one game, but the statistics may show a glimpse of what is to come. Justin Hunter had 9 catches for 73 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson scored two touchdowns. The defense forced 5 turnovers. Yes, I am counting the safety as a turnover because sophmore linebacker Curt Maggitt stripped the ball in the endzone. The offensive line allowed for 191 rushing yards. The last time the rushing yards were even near that high was the Buffalo game in 2011. Only time will tell if the running game will stack up to the rest of the SEC competition, but for now many Vols fans are pleased with the progress they saw Friday night.
The 2011 campaign was plagued with injuries. This 2012 team has more depth at every position which is a very critical to have, especially in the SEC. The Vols made it out of the game pretty healthy. The only significant injury was to senior linebacker Herman Lathers. His shoulder was the trouble this time, but he is ok and listed as probable for the 4pm kickoff versus Georgia State Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
The Vols have many areas they need to improve, but the kickoff game was like a ray of hope for the Vols fans who have weathered the storms of past few years. This fan base is starving for success. Coach Dooley is always very stern about not overlooking the next opponent, but I am going to go ahead and say what we are all thinking.
Is it September 15th yet?