After having the football for less than eight minutes in the first half, the deficit at intermission felt like it should have been more than 13 points.
Down but not out, the Vols turned the tables on Mississippi State in the third quarter, reeling off 10 unanswered points to close the gap to just a field goal.
But Devrin Young‘s fourth quarter fumble with 9:12 remaining proved costly. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown three plays later on a one-yard run by LaDarius Perkins, extending the lead back to 10.
Tyler Bray answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ben Bartholomew which cut the deficit to three, but it was too little too late as the Vols’ defense was unable to stop Tyler Russell and the Bulldog offense.
Final score: Mississppi State 41 Tennessee 31.
Tyler Bray wasn’t sacked, didn’t fumble and only threw one meaningless interception before the half, but he was held to just 148 yards passing. It was his lowest total of the season.
Cordarrelle Patterson‘s electrifying 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was the first conventional kickoff return for a touchdown by a Volunteer since 2002. After which, Cordarrelle Patterson was trending worldwide on Twitter for the third time this season (NC State and Georgia).
Linkebacker AJ Johnson finished with 21 tackles, the most since Tom Fisher in 1964.
With Alabama and South Carolina looming on the schedule, Saturday night’s result was more than another loss in the Derek Dooley era. It was the end of another streak; Tennessee had defeated the Bulldogs in each of the previous six meetings. Even more critical, it was another failed opportunity for Dooley to earn a signature win by defeating a ranked SEC opponent on the road.
Kickoff time for the Alabama game is expected to be announced on Monday.
EDIT: Kickoff for the Alabama game has bet set for 7 p.m.
Derek Dooley Press Conference: