Saturday night's 47-26 defeat of Akron, though no work of art, gave Tennessee a 3-1 start. The last Vol squad to start 3-1 was the '06 team. That Big Orange delegation traveled to Athens, rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit and upset a 10th-ranked Georgia squad 51-33. The 2012 Vols travel to Athens this Saturday looking to upset a fifth-ranked Georgia squad.
Not impressed yet?
Georgia was 5-0 heading into the '06 game, thanks to a rugged defense that had allowed just 34 points. The Dawgs are 4-0 heading into the 2012 game, thanks to a rugged defense that has allowed just 66 points.
Still not convinced?
Tennessee rushed for a mere 115 yards in the '06 game but rode the right arm of 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Erik Ainge (25 of 38 for 268 yards) to victory. Any hopes the Vols have in 2012 will be attached to the right arm of 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Tyler Bray. For what it's worth: Ainge came to the Vols from the West Coast (Hillsboro, Ore.). Bray also came to the Vols from the West Coast (Kingsburg, Calif.).
Can the 2012 Vols spring an upset "between the hedges," in Sanford Stadium, as the 2006 Vols did? Probably not. But stranger things have happened ... like Tennessee hanging 51 points on an '06 Bulldog team that had surrendered just 34 points in its previous five games combined.
CALL 'EM THE BUCKEYE BUSTERS
Clearly, Tennessee needs to get more Ohio teams on its schedule.
The defeat of Akron gave the Vols a 13-1 all-time record versus teams from the state of Ohio. Don't fret if you can't remember the loss. It was a 35-0 setback to the University of Cincinnati in 1904.
Bray must love facing Ohio defenses. Both 400-yard passing performances of his career have come against teams from the Buckeye State. He threw for 405 yards last fall against Cincinnati and passed for 401 yards Saturday night versus Akron. The only other Vol quarterback to cross the 400-yard barrier is Peyton Manning, who did so three times — clicking for 523 versus Kentucky in 1997, for 492 versus Florida in 1996 and for 408 versus Northwestern in 1996.
Bray has passed for 300 or more yards nine times in his college career, even though he has started just 15 games.
Junior receiver Justin Hunter's touchdown catch against Akron was the 13th of his college career. He has 62 total receptions, meaning that roughly one catch out of every five concludes with him in the end zone.
|Freshman wide receiver Alton 'Pig' Howard hauls in his first collegiate catch.|
Junior tailback Rajion Neal established a new single-game rushing mark for himself by halftime, gaining 102 yards in the first two quarters. He finished with 22 carries for 151 yards.
Sophomore tight end Brendan Downs scored his first college touchdown on his first catch of 2012, reeling in a six-yard strike from Bray midway through the second quarter. It was the fourth career reception for Downs, who caught three balls as a freshman in 2011.
Walk-on Jacob Carter made his first career TD catch, as well, hauling in a 24-yard dart from Bray in the fourth quarter.
Freshman Alton Howard, known as "Pig," made his first collegiate catch, a 13-yard grab in the first quarter. He added a five-yarder in the second period.
Despite dropping a couple of passes against Akron, senior wideout Zach Rogers has the two longest receptions of the year for Tennessee — a 72-yarder in Game 1 versus North Carolina State and a 48-yarder Saturday night against the Zips.
The Vols' 633 yards of total offense represented their highest output since Sept. 5, 2009, when they rolled up 657 yards versus Western Kentucky (380 rushing, 277 passing).
The Vol For Life Legend of the game for the Akron contest was Lester McClain, a native Tennessean (Nashville) who was the first African-American player in Big Orange history. As fate would have it, the Akron game featured a breakout performance by Derrick Brodus, a native Tennessean (Alcoa) who is Tennessee's first African-American place-kicker.
Brodus was perfect on four field-goal attempts and five PAT kicks. His 17 points tied the single-game school record by a kicker. His predecessors were Alan Duncan (versus Kentucky in 1978), Fuad Reveiz (versus Memphis in '82) and Alex Walls (versus Wyoming in 2002).
AT LAST ... THE KEY TO WINNING
Tennessee has won 25 consecutive games in which the Vols scored 28 or more points.
Take a look at some of the highlights from Shields-Watkins Field from InsideTennessee.com in the video below: