Tennessee 35, N.C. State 21: The Vols Answer the Questions. Well, Most of Them

Aug 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley celebrates by wearing the Old Leather Helmet after defeating the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Here's what happened in the space of a little more than a minute near the end of the first quarter in Tennessee's game against N.C. State: Tyler Bray hit Zach Rogers for a 72-yard touchdown pass, the Volunteers forced a safety by the Wolfpack, and Cordarelle Patterson took an end around 67 yards for a second touchdown.

And with that, N.C. State's 7-6 lead evaporated and the rout was on. When the Wolfpack pulled close at the end of the half, Tennessee responded by pouring on 10 points in the third quarter to essentially end the game. And it suddenly looks like Derek Dooley's rebuilding prospects won't be such a long shot at all.

Most of the questions seemed to be answered Friday. The running game that all but vanished last year instead ground out 193 yards on 38 attempts. Patterson, Rogers and Justin Hunter (remember him?) combined for 253 receiving yards even without Da'Rick Rogers on hand. And Mike Glennon got picked four times in what ended up being a rough game.

Of course, it's just the first week, so we'll have to wait and see just how good N.C. State ends up being to figure out what this game means. There were some badly-timed meltdowns by the Vols' secondary early in the game. And it's hard to see the Alabama defense, or perhaps even the Florida defense, giving up the kind of big plays that allowed Tennessee to win this one handily.

Still, Tennessee fans have to feel a lot better about the season now than they did 24 hours ago. Whether Dooley can hold onto his job might depend on whether he and his team deliver on that newfound optimism.

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