Every year, just before kick-off of the first game, I'm reminded of just how much I missed football during its eight month hiatus.
The same feeling swept over me Friday night as I watched the orange and white come out onto the field for the first time in 2012 at the Georgia Dome. In a crowd that was decided slanted toward the Vols (lots and lots of orange), the Vols came out and took care of business against NC State with a nice 35-21 victory. Much of the credit for the win goes to a dominating thirty seconds of game play in which the Vols scored 16 points--two long TDs and a safety.
As I said Friday to a fellow fan, "And to think we've got three more quarters to go."
I saw a lot of positives in the game and for the season, setting up what I think could be one of the biggest showdowns the Vols and Gators have had in years when they visit Knoxville a week from Saturday.
The first encouraging sign was two long, sustained drives to end the first half and during the third quarter. One particular drive saw the Vols methodically drive on NC State and saw the Wolfpack take a TD because our offense had them on the ropes. Watching Derek Dooley get visibly excited when NC State took the time out and celebrate and congratulate his offense was a nice moment and I hope that this team can provide him with a lot more of these moments as the season unfolds.
The second encouraging sign was that the offense didn't abandon the running game when it wasn't necessarily paying dividends early in the contest. Tennessee slowly wore down the NC State defense until by the end of the first half and much of the second, the Wolf Pack was giving up more and more yards on the ground.
Possibly the most encouraging sign was that it looked like the staff made adjustments at half-time and the team executed them on both sides of the ball. The defense came up with four picks on the day, one bigger than the fourth-and-short that sparked the thirty seconds of scoring fury to end the first quarter.
On the negative side, I still worry that the Vols were too dependent on the long play to spark the offense and set things up. We've got a lot of potential there, but better teams in the SEC will take away those long plays and I'll be interested to see how Tyler Bray and company respond to that.
I will also point out that we got the short end of the stick from the officiating crew. I have no clue which replay they saw, but the one in the Georgia Dome from ESPNU clearly showed Bray breaking the plane of the end zone and scoring a TD as the first half wound down.
I also still have questions at kicker. I was worried the missed extra point would come back to haunt us, but thankfully the defense bailed Palardi out. He did redeem himself as the game went along and maybe it was early season jitters. Let's hope those are out because his leg could be the difference between a win and a loss at some point this year.
All in all, a nice way to start the season. Let's hope the Vols build on it into game two and aren't looking ahead to the Gators visits on September 15.
Labels: tennessee, tennessee football, tennessee sports
posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/04/2012 09:40:00 AM