Hunter and Bray Put Georgia State Away
It was getting late in the second quarter and the natives were getting just a bit more than restless. The completely outmanned Georgia State Panthers were down only 14-6 in a game that should already have been decided. But Tennessee struck swiftly and decisively, just as they did last week against NC State. And then it was decided. Thoughts immediately turned to next Saturday.
With 5:37 left in the half, and the Panthers just having kicked their second field goal, the Vols began a drive at their own 27 yard line. Mind you, Tennessee already had two TDs in the bag, led by Tyler Bray’s 9-for-11 passing for 115 yards and a TD. But the Vols also had three drives barren of fruit, one of which ended with a Michael Palardy missing a 39-yard field goal attempt in rather ugly fashion, and another by Marlin Lane fumbling the ball away in Tennessee territory.
Enter shock and awe, Big Orange style.
Bray goes to Justin Hunter for 18. And then on the heels of two Rajion Neal rushes for 11 and 19 yards, Bray hits Hunter again for a TD. That was 4 plays and 73 yards in only 1:20 of game clock.
Georgia State go 9 net yards on 5 plays including a fumble nearly lost. A punt puts Tennessee back on their own 21 yard line.
This time it takes only 41 seconds to go the 79 yards. Bray passes to Mychal Rivera for 23, Cordarrelle Patterson for 45, and Justin Hunter for the final 11 to the orange-and-white checkerboard.
Yes, in only 2 minutes and a single second of game clock, 7 plays resulted in 152 yards in what is becoming a signature signed with lightening-quick offensive power.
It was 28-6 at the half. It was finally over as it should have been before the half. And, Tennessee scored 23 more points until the visitors completed an 80-yard TD march against a Vols defense that required several looks at the roster sheet.
In the end, this game was Justin Hunter and Tyler Bray in a mutual relationship of prowess: a sure-handed receiver running precise, confident routes, and a passer delivering spiraling darts into the center circle.
Bray finished the game 18-for 20 and 310 yards. His last 13 passes were all completed, accounting for the third longest pass-completion sequence in school history. Both of the incompletions were thrown in the first quarter.
Hunter collected 8 catches for 146 yards and 3 TDs, becoming the eighth Vol receiver to catch a school-record 3 TD passes in a game (the last being Chris Hannon in 2003).
Truth be told, this perfect pass-catch combo of the orange twin towers was preying on a defense playing very soft on the Vol receivers. The Panthers secondary was so afraid of giving up the big play that they game up a ton of medium-yardage plays strung together like pearls on a string.
Nonetheless, the junior QB from California’s Central Valley has started 2012 just as he started 2011. Consider these numbers for Bray’s first two games in 2011 and 2012.
- 2012′s first two games: 45-for-61/643 yards/6TDs against NC State and Georgia State.
- 2011′s first two games: 51-for-65/698 yards/7TDs against Montana and Cincinnati.
Two decisive wins with similar numbers against opposition of similar quality. But the burning question is: What will a comparison produce when considering Games 3 and onward? Last season there was the Justin Hunter injury and Bray breaking his thumb, with mediocre passing performances sandwiched in between.
The chances of injuries with similar severity to the same two weapons is unlikely. So, will the passing numbers be significantly improved against Florida and Georgia?
A successful season may depend on it.