Be sure to check back to see what the IT staff has to say about the Tennessee game each Saturday this fall.
Randy Moore's thoughts
Tennessee's 35-21 defeat of North Carolina State was pretty much what you'd expect: The Vols made some big plays but also made an assortment of costly errors. Tyler Bray blew a touchdown by losing a fumble at the goal line just before halftime. A false start by Zach Fulton on a first-and-goal at the Wolfpack 3-yard line in the third quarter turned a touchdown drive into a field goal. The inability of offensive linemen to get a push and the inability of rushers to get north/south resulted in some failed short-yardage plays. There were some busts in the secondary that resulted in big passing plays by N.C. State. A missed PAT, some erratic punting and some inconsistent kickoffs suggest the kicking game is still a work in progress.
Of course, some of the above can be attributed to first-game jitters and a new 3-4 defensive scheme. Because of that, I think the Vols gave a pretty good account of themselves. They scored on big plays in the first half, then scored on some nice drives in the second half. The four interceptions were really encouraging, especially since Tennessee recorded just nine picks in 12 games last season.
Special Teams: C-
Chris Price's thoughts
Tennessee came out with guns blazing on offense, but by the same token they struggled at times in the first half. Cordarrelle Patterson showed exactly why FOX Sports NEXT rated him as the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country, but Justin Hunter had a few uncharacteristic drops. The second half, however, yielded some nice drives that put the game out of reach.
Sal Sunseri's new 3-4 defensive schemes had a few busts, but they definitely showed they can be very effective when in the right fits. Add four interceptions and a forced fumble for a safety and it was a good start.
On special teams, Matt Darr came out booming the ball with a 51-yard punt, but he dropped off later in the game. On the other hand, he did a heck of a job getting down a very high snap on a missed extra point. Kickoff coverage was excellent most of the night aside from Palardy having to make a great open field tackle to save a touchdown.
Special Teams: B
Danny Parker's thoughts
Although Tennessee trailed only once and it was simply by one point, it not only answered the bell rung by North Carolina State, it responded with a left hook by posting 16 points in 38 seconds.
A majority of the worry throughout the offseason circled around team chemistry, leadership and finding a significant upgrade in mental toughness. All three areas deserve a pair of thumbs up from the view at the field level.
When an offensive lineman had to be told the play call three times by Tyler Bray, the junior quarterback got into his teammate's rear end about it. When players scored touchdowns, they were greeted by hugs, cheers and well-thought-out handshakes. When an future NFL quarterback dropped back, the Volunteers picked him off four times.
The Vol offense left a lot of plays and yards on the field, but in a season opener, 524 yards against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent is most impressive.
Allowing 288 passing yards doesn't look good on paper. Considering it was done by Mike Glennon, who will play on Sundays, and that he was intercepted four times, defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri will take that any day. Add three forced fumbles and a safety and it's a thumbs up.
Matt Darr posted a pair of punts inside the 20 and a deep drive of 51 that left the Wolfpack returnman backpedaling. Micahel Palardy posted a solid night, including a game-sealing 34-yarder and several boots into or right at the end zone.
Special teams: B-
Josh Woodward's thoughts
Well the Georgia Dome curse ended with Derek Dooley and Tennessee getting a big national win over NC State. The Vol's came out throwing right over the highly-touted corner David Amerson. All three first half touchdowns went by the All American. Tennessee fans couldn't have asked for much more from the Tennessee offense, it looked incredible. The offensive line blocked really well, Tyler Bray had no pressure and made the most of his opportunities throwing for 333 yards.
The Sal Sunseri defense was as advertised, they did give up a lot of yards, they got pressure on the quarterback and had four picks against a possible first-round quarterback. The linebackers played well and defensive line was active against a good offensive line from NC State. The corners and safeties played really aggressive and made the most of it. Considering that this is a totally new defensive scheme I believe they couldn't have played much better.
One bad snap on the extra point and that was about all that was bad on special teams. At first I thought it might come back and haunt the Vols, but it turned out to be just a blip on the radar. The coverage was above average and Devrin Young looks really comfortable back on punts. Matt Darr had a couple of booming punts, this should help save Michael Palardy's leg this season. I predict they will score a TD on special teams this season.
Overall, this team was impressive on opening night, they looked like a good SEC quality team. They left the game fairly healthy and get ready for a cupcake game with Georgia State. They could get some young guys in next week and build some more depth for the future. This can quiet the national chatter of Derek Dooley on the hot seat. For now Tennessee fans can enjoy this victory they deserve it and for us guys that cover it, it is a lot easier to write about.
Special teams: B