BY BRIAN RICE
Mychal Rivera celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday afternoon with a memorable performance at Neyland Stadium. The redshirt senior caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
"I came into the game with the goal of scoring a touchdown on my birthday," Rivera said. "That's a high expectation and I filled it, so I'm happy."
His 19-yard catch in the second quarter for Tennessee's second touchdown capped the Vols' shortest drive of the day, a two play, 40-yard series set up by a Devrin Young 35-yard punt return. After catching just one pass in the Vols' opener, head coach Derek Dooley said it was important for Rivera to egt on track.
"It was good to get him going," Dooley said. "I think he came out of NC State a little disappointed. He caught a touchdown and 70 yards is a good number for a tight end."
"Last week, I only had one catch and I felt like I could help the team more," Rivera said. "I'm real confident in my abilities. I know we have a lot of receivers, but I felt like I could really help more and I showed it."
Of his three catches outside of the touchdown, two went for first downs. The consistency allowed the Tennessee offense the opportunity to get in synch after a tough start to the game.
"It was a real slow start," Rivera said of the first quarter, which yielded a lone score. "We were looking forward to keeping up our fast tempo and continuing to execute our plays."
Now the attention turns to next Saturday and the SEC opener against Florida. Rivera said that with Georgia State now in the rear view mirror, the team was ready to prepare for the Gators.
"We've already talked about meetings for the week and getting ready to watch Florida film," Rivera said. We're locked in."