Vandy picks on Volunteers
NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt’s defense hadn’t made an interception of a Southeastern Conference quarterback since the August opener when Kenny Ladler picked South Carolina. In fact, the Commodores started Saturday with four interceptions through the first 10 games of the season — one against Presbyterian and two against UMass. Vandy had two interceptions in the first half alone against Tennessee, intercepting Tyler Bray on a tipped pass at the line before junior Andre Hal picked off Justin Worley’s pass intended for Cordarelle Patterson in the second quarter to set up a Commodore score.
Bray had gone 117 passes without an interception — the sixth longest streak in UT history — dating back to the Vols’ Oct. 27 loss to South Carolina. For Worley it was the fourth time the sophomore has entered a game for the Vols this season and the second interception as a Vol.
Bray’s third quarter didn’t help when Hal made his second interception of the night as VU quadruped its league interception total in one orange swing.
ADJUSTED 3-4: Safeties coach Josh Conklin has taken a more active role in defensive play calling the last two weeks alongside defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri in the coaches’ booth.
If the differences schematically have come from Conklin’s consultation, they worked in the first two quarters against Vanderbilt.
Tennessee was burned on a 72-yard screen pass from Jordan Rodgers to Zac Stacy on Vanderbilt’s first play from scrimmage, but the Vols bowed
their necks and forced the Commodores to settle for 3 points.
Vandy accounted for just 39 total yards the rest of the quarter, including 0-for-4 on third down.
Vanderbilt had first-and-goal at the Tennessee 2 later in the second quarter, but Tennessee held the line of scrimmage again, forcing another Vandy field goal after stopping running back Wesley Tate on back-to-back runs and forcing a Rodgers incompletion.
After averaging giving up over 480 yards and nearly 37 points per game over the first 10 outings this season, Tennessee held Vandy to just 13 points and 152 yards of offense on 31 first-half plays, converting just one third down in eight tries before the half.
PASS THE BACON: Apparently sailors don’t like pigs, at least judging by the way the Commodores treated UT’s Alton “Pig” Howard. On UT’s final drive of the first half Howard was thrown roughly out of bounds by Kenny Ladler. Jared Morse was even more vicious throwing Howard for a five-yard loss on a pass from Worley and Vandy lit the receiver up for a first quarter incompletion with a turnaround hit to the numbers.
It wasn’t any better in the second half as linebacker Karl Butler got his own slice of bacon on UT’s first drive with a tackle for loss.
SMALL GAME HUNTER: Justin Hunter raised his place in the Tennessee record books with a five-catch, 39-yard night. Hunter passed Joey Kent to become No. 4 with his 70th reception this season and his 1,018 receivings are the seventh best season by a Vol. But the big play in big games eluded Hunter again as the play in the end zone fell incomplete.
37: It was the seventh straight game that Tennessee has allowed 38 or more points. The last team to not crack 38 against the Vols was the Akron Zips, who managed just 26 back in September.