KNOXVILLE -- The fingerprints of Tennessee senior offensive guard Dallas Thomas weren't directly on any of the Volunteers' seven touchdowns against Georgia State on Saturday.
He didn't throw a pass, catch a pass or run the ball into the end zone.
But he and his fellow offensive linemen blocked beautifully throughout UT's 51-13 win against an overmatched foe.
And his observation concerning the Vols' quick strike attack -- four touchdowns took four plays or less but averaged 63 yards in length -- shouldn't be ignored by UT's fans or foes.
"It's demoralizing [to the opposition]," Thomas said with a smile. "And I don't think any team can be ready for that."
It didn't matter whether Georgia State was ready or not. Five years ago the downtown Atlanta university didn't own a chin strap, a helmet or a practice field or employ a football coach.
Tennessee was just the third FBS school the Panthers have played to date, the others being Alabama and Houston.
GSU coach Bill Curry watched those two debacles end 63-7 against Bama and 56-0 against Houston.
Said Curry after this one: "We had opportunities to actually be in this game that we let slip away. ... That wasn't the case before."
But he also said of the Vols: "Tennessee's execution was superb in the passing game when the game was still in question, and they put us out of the game with their excellence in that regard."
He then added, "They have a great receiving corps and a potentially great quarterback. Tyler Bray missed a couple of throws against N.C. State and we were hoping he might miss a few tonight. Obviously, he didn't."
Magnificently protected by Thomas and Co. against the Panthers, Bray has been sacked only once through two games, both remarkably comfortable UT wins.
Against GSU he was 18-of-20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Thanks largely to that aerial largess against both North Carolina State (333 yards) and GSU, the Vols have totaled more than 500 yards in each of their first two games for the first time in school history.
How much is this due to Bray?
After UT tight end Mychal Rivera caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown he said, "Tyler is the best quarterback in the country."
Yet also count Curry among those who believe juco transfer Cordarrelle Patterson just might be the best wideout in the country.
"There was shock and awe at the speed of Patterson," Curry said. "He just outran us. I was praying he wouldn't. But he's special. I'd like to not see him again on the same field."
Given that wide receiver Justin Hunter caught three TD passes against the Panthers, someone asked Dooley just how good his receiving corps might become.
"He looked good out there today," Dooley said of Hunter. "They were giving him free access. It's not going to be like that next week when they put their hands on him."
Theoretically, Florida's visit to Neyland Stadium on Saturday signals the beginning of the Vols sharing the field with someone of similar, if not equal talent.
Theoretically, Patterson and Hunter can't outrun the Gators.
"We have been talking about that game since January," said linebacker Jordan Williams. "That's the one everyone wants. It's the one the fans want, too."
If nothing else, it signals the start of learning just how good these Vols really are.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com or 423-757-6273.
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 ...