KNOXVILLE — His team victorious for the first time in 42 days following Saturday's 55-48 victory over Troy, Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter said the Volunteers winning games from here on out is simple.
"Coach just has to call the right plays for us," a grinning Hunter said of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney after he caught three touchdowns and fellow wideout Cordarrelle Patterson caught a fourth score and totaled more than 200 receiving yards.
"We were just going out there with a mentality that we could get it every time."
It might be time to call them Thunderbolt (Patterson) and Lightfoot (Hunter), so completely do Patterson's moves overwhelm defenders while Hunter quietly flies by them, each all but unstoppable in his own way.
And never was that more in evidence than when the Vols fell behind the Trojans 48-41 with 3:14 to go, a deficit to bring a stunned silence to a UT homecoming crowd officially announced as 84,189 but likely more than 10,000 under that.
"They just put the offense in our hands," Hunter said. "I didn't think we'd need 55 [points], though."
But with 3:10 on the clock, the Vols down seven and 61 yards from the end zone, they needed seven points just to tie. Quarterback Tyler Bray immediately went to Hunter on first down, a play that drew a pass-interference penalty.
Bray had thrown for nearly 450 yards before that score, as well as four touchdowns.
"I could have cared less about breaking records," he said later. "I knew we were down seven points. ... I knew we needed a win."
So he went to Hunter again, this time on a crossing route from 46 yards out that produced a stunning touchdown and tied the game with 2:54 to go.
But that wasn't the end. A defense that surrendered 721 yards on the afternoon forced a Troy punt, returning the football to Bray, Hunter and Patterson with 2:11 still on the clock.
A pass to Marlin Lane got the ball to the Troy 33. A 24-yard strike to Hunter moved it to the 9. From there Lane rushed in for a TD, the defense held for the fourth time in five Troy possessions and UT snapped a four-game losing skid.
Afterward, Patterson said, "I don't think I'm supposed to do things like that," but also said he thought he'd be a dangerous contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" because "I might be the best dancer on the team."
As for Hunter, he said, "We talked about having 100 [receiving yards each]. But 200 each [Hunter finished with 181]? No way."
Said Bray: "They can do this every week. They are NFL-caliber receivers."
If the UT defense keeps giving up 48 points and 700-plus yards, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot may need to do this if the Vols are to keep winning.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...