NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vanderbilt Commodores ended years of
frustration at the hands of their in-state rival Tennessee with one
of their best victories in decades.
Making their celebration even sweeter?
The Commodores also ensured Tennessee's third straight losing
season, putting Volunteers' coach Derek Dooley's job status in
Andre Hal intercepted two passes and Jordan Rodgers threw for
two touchdowns as Vanderbilt routed Tennessee 41-18 Saturday night
for the Commodores' fifth straight victory, clinching their first
winning record in the regular season since 1982.
In-state rival Tennessee had won 34 of the past 35 games in this
series coming into this game. The Commodores (7-4, 5-3 Southeastern
Conference) also snapped a 14-game skid against Tennessee at home
with their first win in Nashville since 1982 and the most points
they've scored against the Vols since a 51-7 win in 1923.
Vanderbilt also had its biggest margin of victory over Tennessee
since a 26-0 win in 1954 in a game the Commodores were held to a
pair of field goals by Carey Spear after having first-and-goal at
the Volunteers' 5 and closer. The Commodores also won five SEC
games for the first time since 1935.
The Vols (4-7, 0-7) haven't had three straight losing seasons
since 1909-11. They also will miss out on a bowl game in
consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-1978.
Vanderbilt led 13-10 at halftime and took control with a
dominant third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points in a stretch
where the Commodores outgained Tennessee 175-13.
Receiver Jordan Matthews scored on a 47-yard end around -- his
first career rushing TD -- running back Wesley Tate tossed a jump
pass to Kris Kentera for a 3-yard TD and Zac Stacy became Vandy's
all-time scoring leader with his 27th career TD on a 10-yard run
for a 34-10 lead with 1:53 left.
Rodgers finished 13 of 26 for 245 yards, and Matthews caught
seven passes for 115 yards, including a 71-yard TD.
Vanderbilt came in with a scoring defense ranked 16th in the
nation, giving up just 18 points a game. The Commodores got a rare
sack against Tennessee, and a unit that had four interceptions all
season and none against an SEC opponent since the season opener
against South Carolina got three that Vandy turned into 17 points.
This game was expected to be a shootout with Tennessee averaging
37.9 points per game and Tyler Bray threatening Peyton Manning's
single-season passing record. Bray had been nearly perfect in the
last three games, throwing for 1,302 yards with 13 TDs and only one
Vanderbilt outgained Tennessee 442-303 in total offense, and
Bray wound up benched before returning for his worst game this
Bray stared at the Vandy sideline after he threw his lone TD, a
14-yarder to Nashville native Zach Rogers in the second quarter.
Bray was intercepted by Johnell Thomas off a tipped pass on the
next drive, and Dooley benched the junior with Bray 6 of 17 for 79
yards in the half. Bray finished 11 of 29 for a season-low 103
Sophomore Justin Worley did little better for Tennessee after
entering with only 12 pass attempts for 83 yards with an
interception this season.
Hal intercepted a Worley pass intended for Cordarrelle Patterson
and ran it 36 yards to the Tennessee 17. Rodgers put Vandy up 13-7
with an 11-yard TD pass to Chris Boyd, who pulled the ball in
before stepping out of the back of the end zone.
Worley did move the Vols 51 yards to set up a 28-yard field goal
by Michael Palardy just before halftime to pull within 13-10 of
Dooley put Bray back in for the third quarter, and the Vols went
three-and-out. Vanderbilt took over from there, and Tennessee's
lone highlight was an 81-yard punt return by Patterson in the
fourth quarter after the game's outcome was long decided.