After a sluggish start in the Tennessee season opener, tight end Mychal Rivera came up big for the Vols, and on his birthday nonetheless.
"I came into (the game) with the goal to score a touchdown on my birthday, which is a high expectation, but I fulfilled it so I'm happy," Rivera said.
Rivera only had one catch for 13 yards against N.C. State and was disappointed that he wasn't able to contribute more to the offense in the game.
"I just felt like I could help the team more than that," said Rivera. "I'm real confident in my abilities and I understand that we have a lot of receivers, but I felt like I could really help more."
The senior did just that Saturday against Georgia State as he hauled in four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown in the 51-13 win over the Panthers.
The touchdown reception was the second of Rivera's career.
"He was reminding us it was his birthday so we're happy for him that he scored," said wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Rivera was targeted on the first play from scrimmage for the Volunteers, but was overthrown by Tyler Bray. However, ten plays later on the opening drive Bray found Rivera down the seam for a 22-yard strike that put the Vols on the Georgia State 1-yard line.
He wasn't targeted again until the second quarter, but was able to bring in a 6-yard catch on the Volunteers' first drive of the quarter.
"We struggled on some third and short situations," said head coach Derek Dooley. "We have to clean those up and run the ball better in those situations."
After the Tennessee defense stopped a Panther's drive, it only took UT offense two plays to get in the end zone.
After Justin Hunter brought down a 21-yard catch, Bray was able to find Rivera in the front corner of the end zone for an easy 19-yard touchdown to give the Vols a 14-3 lead.
"I've told you all this before, I think Tyler is the best quarterback in the country," said Rivera. "He makes it easy when he is out there throwing perfect balls."
Rivera brought in one more ball when Bray found his tight end once again for a 23-yard strike down the middle of the field. The catch was Rivera's long for the day.
Dooley was pleased that the offense was able to get the big guy going after his slow start in week one.
"I think he came out of N.C. State a little disappointed, so we're trying to manage it through," Dooley said. "He looked good in the pass game. He caught a touchdown so it was good to get him going. Seventy yards is a good number for a tight end."
Rivera now sets his sights to the Florida Gators who come to Rocky Top next week in a showdown of two 2-0 teams.
"It's a big game," Rivera said. "It's an SEC game and those are always big. We finally get them in Neyland Stadium and we're ready."