Rapid Reaction: Vanderbilt stuns Tennessee to secure bowl berth
Vanderbilt claimed its title Saturday night: state champs.
Not only did Vanderbilt secure bowl eligibility on the field with a 45-34 victory, but the Commodores eliminated any hope Tennessee had to play in the Sugar Bowl this bowl season.
Butch Jones suffered his second loss as Tennessee’s head coach to Vanderbilt, his first coming in 2013 to James Franklin. The loss has placed his fourth-year program in a position of uncertainty heading into the bowl season and off-season.
What I liked
For Vanderbilt, Ralph Webb became the program’s career rushing leader. He finished with 116 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including the final score that extended Vandy’s lead.
Kyle Shurmur passed for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns.
Tennessee came out quick on offense, setting the tone for the game. Mike DeBord expanded the playbook and was balanced on the opening drive with 56 yards on five plays that was capped off by an Alvin Kamara 14-yard rushing touchdown.
After taking a 14-7 lead toward the end of the first quarter, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop dialed-up a much needed three-and-out stop so that the Volunteers offense could get the ball back and expand on the lead.
Josh Dobbs had another brilliant performance: 340 yards passing and two touchdowns.
What I didn’t like
Tennessee’s defense was pushed around again. The Vols gave up 608 yards.
Despite that, the Vols had a chance, but Jones made a curious decision to go for it on fourth down in the final minutes. The Vols trailed by 11. A field goal would have made it a one-score game.
Instead, Dobbs passed to Alvin Kamara, who ran out of bounds before picking up the first down.
Vanderbilt then ran out the clock.
Who’s the man
So many choices. Shurmur had a career day. Dobbs had another 300-yard game. Webb broke Vandy’s career rushing record.
But it’s hard to ignore Derek Barnett. The junior defensive end tied the great Reggie White for sacks in a career. Barnett recorded his 32nd sack on the last play of the first half by sacking Shurmur for a loss of 11 yards. Barnett could easily be eyeing an early departure for the NFL, leaving him a one final game remaining to add to his record.
Kyle Shurmur led Vanderbilt to victory behind a 21-34 performance for 416 passing yards and two touchdowns through-the-air.
The Vols are playing the waiting game. They will have to wait-and-see where the bowl selections fall in place and see where their destination will be.
Vanderbilt, which would have qualified for a bowl based on its high APR score, kicked down the door and gained eligibility by winning its sixth game.