ATLANTA, Ga. (SUBMITTED/WVLT) -- Tennessee's 2012 season got off to an impressive start. The same could be said for wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson's career. And Sal Sunseri's defense.
The Vols rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense and dispatched NC State 35-21 in front of 55,529 in the Georgia Dome on Friday night in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff
Patterson, a South Carolina native who spent two seasons at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, caught six passes for 93 yards and scored on a 67-yard reverse to help stake the Vols to an early lead. All told, Patterson had 165 of the Vols' 525 yards of total offense.
And Sunseri, making his debut as the Vols' defensive coordinator, saw his players record a safety and pick off four NC State passes. Tennessee (1-0) had just nine interceptions last season.
Justin Hunter picked up Patterson's momentum in the second half. In his first game since tearing his ACL against Florida last September, Hunter caught nine pass for 73 yards, with eight of those catches coming after halftime.
Hunter had four catches on UT's first drive of the second half, a 14-play, 87-yard grind that ended when Rajion Neal scored from 8 yards out. That score - and a Michael Palardy field goal on their next possession - helped the Vols build a 33-14 lead by the end of the third quarter.
While Tennessee's third-quarter scores were methodical, its first-half offense came in a flash.
Patterson began the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray, whose 332 yards against NC State (0-1) marked the seventh time he's thrown for more than 300 yards.
The Wolfpack answered and took a 7-6 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Tony Creecy, ending a 10-play, 86-yard drive that got a big boost from 41- and 28-yard completions by quarterback Mike Glennon.
Then the Vols hit fast-foward.
Cornerback Prentiss Waggner intercepted a Glennon pass on fourth down, ending an NC State drive inside UT territory. One play later, Tyler Bray found Zach Rogers wide open behind the Wolfpack secondary for a 72-yard touchdown.
On NC State's next play from scrimmage, linebacker Curt Maggitt forced a fumble that rolled out of the end zone for a safety. And one play after that, Patterson took an end around 67 yards for a touchdown, winning a footrace to the end zone and ending a stretch that saw the Vols score 16 points in 38 seconds.
Once the pace slowed, NC State turned a fourth-down stop into an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that made the score 22-14 with 3:42 left in the second quarter.
The Vols nearly scored a touchdown with 11 seconds to go in the first half, but officials said quarterback Tyler Bray fumbled on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line. An official replay upheld the call and kept the Vols' lead at eight points heading into halftime.
UT allowed 145 passing yards in first quarter, but clamped down in second half and kept major pressure on Glennon, who finished with 287 yards on 27-of-46 passing with four interceptions and one touchdown.
UT's defense had a major hand in the win, as did its running game. Tennessee finished with 193 yards rushing, led by Marlin Lane's 75 yards on nine carries, including a 42-yard run that set up a field goal in the third quarter.
Tennessee returns to Neyland Stadium for its home opener against FCS opponent Georgia State on Saturday at 4 p.m.