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Vols Sprint to 51-13 Win in Home Opener

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KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's first possession inside Neyland Stadium this season lasted 13 plays, covered 78 yards and ended with a trip to the checkerboard end zone.

But for the rest of the Vols' 51-13 victory over Georgia State on Saturday afternoon, that opening drive proved an anomaly.

For the better part of three quarters, the Vols - now 2-0 heading into next week's SEC opener against Florida (TV: ESPN, 6 p.m. ET) - looked like they were caught in one long two-minute drill.

"We came out and we didn't have the spunk I was hoping to have," Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said. "We put together a really good first drive and scored. That was a good drive. They had seven fumbles and we recovered one, so that's kind of a sign of the tenacity. We did a good job, and in the third quarter we came out and imposed our will a little bit, which was good.

"We settled into the second quarter, but they were doing a lot of crossing routes and that caused some problems in man to man, so we had to change how we were playing and we lost the edge a couple of times in the running back. Their back did a nice job. We played soft a couple times and they had play action short throws. They did a good job and we kind of settled into what they were doing.

"I have to give Georgia State a lot of credit. They came out and played really well. They gave us a lot of problems, and we obviously have a lot deeper and more talented team, and that showed up over the course of four quarters. It was a good win, but as in any game, there were a lot of mistakes and a lot of concerns so we've got to work on that next week. That's what we'll do."

After tailback Rajion Neal capped UT's 4 minute, 14-second opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, the Vols specialized in quick-strike scores.

They needed just 30 seconds and two plays to move 40 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. And then the real fireworks started.

The Vols moved 73 yards in just 1:20, scoring on the first of three touchdowns by receiver Justin Hunter to take a 21-6 lead with 4:11 to go before halftime. Their next possession ended the same way - another Tyler Bray-to-Hunter touchdown - but took just 41 seconds to go 79 yards.

That touchdown gave UT 28-6 lead at halftime, but the quick scores continued into the third quarter.

After forcing a Georgia State punt to begin the second half, the Vols' next drive qualified as a regular slog in comparison to the rest of the day, lasting a full 2:36 and six plays before Neal scored on a 5-yard run.

Already leading 34-6, the Vols moved 62 yards in four plays when Bray connected again with Hunter for a 19-yard score.

Bray, who came out with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter for backup Justin Worley, completed his last 13 passes and finished 18-of-20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns.

Hunter led the Vols with 146 yards receiving on eight catches, and his three touchdowns marked the ninth time in school history a player has caught three touchdowns in a game.

"He's had two good games and I think he's got a lot of improving to do and a lot of developing to do to really play to his potential," Dooley said. "He looked good out there today. They were giving him free access, so it's not going to be like that next week when they put their hands on him."

For the rest of the game, Tennessee played lots of newcomers. Twelve players saw their first career action, and running back Quenshaun Watson scored on a 2-yard touchdown that began after redshirt freshman Geraldo Orta intercepted a pass deep in Georgia State territory.

Tennessee, which ran for 184 yards, topped 150 rushing yards for the second straight week. Last season, the Vols eclipsed that mark just once. What's more, the Vols recorded more than 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week, the first time since 2000 they've done that in consecutive games.

The Vols also ran plays out of their 'Wildcat' package with fullback Justin King taking snaps at quarterback.

Tennessee's attention now moves to the 24th-ranked Gators, who came from behind to win their SEC opener 20-17 on Saturday at Texas A&M.


 

 

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