ATLANTA - It was a coming-out party of sorts for junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, and boy did he shine.
If there were any doubts about how the Vols would respond after losing All-SEC wide receiver Da'rick Rogers weeks before the season, they were answered tonight.
"(I'm) proud of the players," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We made a lot of mistakes in the first half but had a lot of big plays too."
Patterson recorded his first reception as a Vol on the second play of the season, a 9-yard hitch route against the far sideline. Tyler Bray targeted Patterson again on the drive but was unable to connect.
It was a promising start for the young receiver and it seemed like a collective sigh of relief was exhaled by the Tennessee side of the crowd when the five-star recruit hauled in the first pass.
But fans were sent into a frenzy when Bray connected with Patterson the next drive on a 41-yard bomb down the left sideline. Not only did Patterson score on a huge play, he roasted All-American cornerback David Amerson.
"He's obviously a heck of a player," N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien said. "The kid is 6'4" but had a lot of speed, that's puts some stress on the defense."
Players and coaches joked about the play in the post-game press conference, but the new receiver showed that he has what it takes to get it done on a high level, just four minutes into the ballgame.
"He (Patterson) came over after that first touchdown and was like 'man I was so scared I almost dropped it and fell down,' I think he was real excited to get his first touchdown," said Justin Hunter.
That wasn't all for Patterson — he was just whetting the Tennessee faithful's appetite. Following an insane 36 seconds when the Vols picked off Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon, scored a 72-yard touchdown and recorded a safety, Patterson raced for a 67-yard touchdown run on a reverse to cap off the 22-point first quarter for the Vols.
Bray faked the handoff to running back Rajion Neal and gave it to Patterson sprinting behind the line. After making a corner and linebacker both miss, Patterson cut it inside and left another would-be tackler in the dust, making it a foot race. Patterson was able to outrun Amerson's angle to the sideline and dash into the end zone right in front of the Pride of the Southland Band.
Patterson was unable to record another reception in the second half, but his playmaking ability in the first half had a clear impact on Hunter's ability to get open after half-time.
Hunter recorded six receptions for 51 yards in the second half.
"They were doubling me a lot early (on), but after those big plays they backed off a little," Hunter said.
It was an impressive showing from the transfer in his first game when a lot was expected of him. Patterson finished with six catches for 93 yards. No Volunteer freshman has ever had a 100-yard receiving game and Patterson came as close as any, and tacked on 72 rushing yards as well.
The JUCO transfer's impact on the game was not lost on his teammates
"He's got a great chance to be one of the best in the league," said linebacker Dontavis Sapp. "As you saw tonight, he played a great game."