Vandy rout of Tennessee worst in nearly 60 years
By David Cobb | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NASHVILLE — The first two times Vanderbilt found itself inside the Tennessee 5-yard line in the opening half of Saturday’s 41-18 Commodore victory, the Volunteers forced field goals.
But when Vandy’s Jordan Rodgers found Chris Boyd for a toe-tapping touchdown grab late in the second quarter to take a 13-7 lead, the floodgates opened and extinguished the vaguely lingering flame of hope that UT would become bowl eligible.
Vandy (7-4, 5-3 SEC) tacked on 28 unanswered points to open the second half — including 21 in the third quarter — and a suddenly sluggish UT offense could not recover.
While the Vols’ defense exhausted its stops early, the offense, which had produced 103 points in its previous two games, sputtered.
The Vols were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time in 2012 as the Commodores jumped ahead 3-0 early.
When Tyler Bray found Zach Rogers in the middle of Vanderbilt Stadium’s south end zone in the second quarter, he made the score 7-3 and passed Andy Kelly in the UT record book for fourth in career completions.
It would be the highlight of his game.
Bray was pulled from the game by UT coach Derek Dooley after the Vols’ next offensive possession that ended with an interception on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Vanderbilt cashed in off the turnover with its second field goal of the half to trail by 1.
Justin Worley took over as the UT signal caller, but the decision backfired on Derek Dooley when the sophomore quarterback was picked off by Vandy’s Andre Hal.
Boyd’s aforementioned touchdown ensued as a result — and the rout was on.
With Bray back in at quarterback, Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC) went three-and out on its first possession of the third quarter.
The Commodores took over and wasted no time in extending their lead to two possessions as Jordan Matthews took an end-around handoff 47 yards to the end zone to further ignite a majority Vanderbilt crowd of 40,350.
Instead of initiating a comeback as it had previously done in similar situations against SEC foes Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina, the UT offense folded.
Bray was picked off for a second time, setting up a touchdown pass from Vandy’s Wesley Tate that resembled the jump pass touchdowns that former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow patented during his time in the SEC.
With the score 27-10, Bray and the Vols continued to stumble.
The third quarter ended with the receiver duo Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter receiver having garnered just seven catches, combined.
Vanderbilt put the nail in Tennessee’s coffin when Zac Stacy scampered 10 yards to cap a drive that bled nearly five minutes off the third quarter clock.
Down 24, UT tried to initiate an offensive attack, but an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion late in the third and a stalled drive in the fourth quarter nullified any hope that a historic comeback was in store.
As the orange-clad faithful trickled out of the stadium, convinced they were seeing UT’s third loss to their in-state rival in just 30 years, Vanderbilt added insult to injury.
Matthews took a Jordan Rogers’ pass 71 yards to the house. The score thrust the Commodores past the 40-point mark, a barrier they had not achieved against an SEC opponent since a 2005 loss to Kentucky and not in victory since doing it to Georgia in 1994.
In a last ditch effort, as he’s done numerous times for Tennessee, Patterson made a play. He returned a punt 81 yards for a score in the fourth quarter, but it was much too little and much too late.
Tennessee will close its season Saturday at Neyland Stadium when it hosts Kentucky (2-10, 0-7 SEC) in a 12:21 kickoff.