Tennessee fans will take little solace in milestones after the difficult loss to No. 19 Mississippi State on Saturday night, but Cordarrelle Patterson's performance was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult evening for fans of the Big Orange.
Patterson scored two touchdowns, the first a 98-yard kick return to bring the Vols back within three points and the second an 11-yard fade from Tyler Bray. Patterson is the first Volunteer to have both a kick return and receiving touchdown in a game since Carl Pickens in 1991.
"It was pretty amazing," Patterson said. "The blocks my teammates had for me were great, there was no way I could miss that hole. I just danced through the hole and made it to the end zone."
The wideout finished the game with just one more reception and 25 total yards, but also added 57 yards on the ground on three carries. The rushing performance by Patterson was highlighted by a 34-yard run where he changed directions twice, then outran the Bulldog defense down the sideline for a big first down.
"I was just trying (to) get out there and make big plays," Patterson said. "I was just trying to get open and score."
"He's a special guy," said head coach Derek Dooley. "We need to find a way to get him the ball."
Bray hurts his knee
Tyler Bray went down and grabbed his knee after scrambling for a short gain. His leg rolled underneath him and his was noticeably limping for the remainder of the drive.
"The knee is all right," Bray said. "I just took care of all of your questions."
Bray didn't miss a snap and was instrumental in the Volunteers mounting the second half comeback. The junior quarterback was 13-24 with an interception that was inconsequential.
"I thought Tyler pressed a little bit in the second quarter," said Dooley. "But he settled down and I think he played a good game."
Vols lose turnover battle
The Vols had two turnovers on the night, the Bray interception and a Devrin Young fumble. Bray's interception came with 13 seconds left in the first half on a deep ball to Patterson. Mississippi State took a knee and went into the locker room.
The Young fumble was more costly.
The Volunteers had reeled off 10 straight points to climb within three points of the Bulldogs and were moving the ball again. Young had picked up the first down, but stud cornerback Johnthan Banks ripped the ball free from Young's arms and recovered the fumble on the sideline. Mississippi State turned around and scored a touchdown, extending their lead to 10 points with just under eight minutes left.
"We had a bad turnover and gave up a big play, but still with 5:22 to go we had a great football game," Dooley said.