My favorite Vandy moment occurred on December 2, 1978 at Dudley Field, Nashville.
The last game of Johnny Majors’ second season as Vol head coach. Two years prior, Bill Battle ended his head coaching career at the same Dudley Field by defeating the Commodores 13-10. But now, Tennessee at 4-5-1 needed a win over 2-8 Vanderbilt to avoid its second consecutive losing season, not seen in Knoxville since 1910-11.
The previous week, Tennessee had defeated Kentucky on a cold, snow flurry-filled day at Neyland Stadium 29-14, behind the five field goals of the “Swahili Sidewinder” Alan Duncan that tied an SEC record. I sat in the old North End Zone bleachers that day because they were to be torn down after the following season, giving way to the new North End enclosure. That was my last chance to sit in that old structure because I was leaving the state for a career. I’m glad I did because I had the best seat in the old house to watch Alan do his thing.
So a bunch of us piled into a car and tooled west over the 180 miles to Nashville looking for blood in the name of Victory Over Vanderbilt. We ended up in the lobby of I think a Holiday Inn where we saw Coach Majors and Assistant Coach George Cafego. Ol’ Bad News as I remember gave an impromptu speech to those around him, including myself, on why beating Vanderbilt was so important – Cafego was from the old school when Vandy was a power and beating them was our number one aim, right up there with ‘Bama. It still was crucial to people like Cafego and Majors, no matter the circumstances. Needless to say, we were all pumped.
We filed into Dudley Field – it was a pretty old, decrepit stadium at that time, a year before most of it was demolished as part of a complete remodeling effort.
Cold with gray skies. Typical Vandy game weather. I sat at about the goal line in the east grandstand near the north end zone bleachers, above which stood one of those old-timey scoreboards that included hand-placed letters: “TENNESSEE” on one side and “VANDERBILT” on the other, right above the scores.
It was a romp. The Vols behind QB Jimmy Streater, who could run and throw, laid it on the Commodores 41-15. The Big Orange faithful were in fine voice that day – we were yelling needless crap at Commodore fans throughout the afternoon. We were pretty full of ourselves for being a mighty 5-5-1 power.
Oh yes – my favorite moment. Near the end of the game, the Vols scored a TD to humiliate the Commodores and send coach Fred Pancoast to his third consecutive 2-9 season (he was fired after that season). Alan Duncan, a walk-on who became a fan favorite in 1978, set up to kick the extra point off of the old worn-out Astro Turf. The kick was up, through the uprights…
… and the ball hit the old scoreboard, right in the middle of those hand-placed letters spelling “VANDERBILT”, knocking most of them off the board down into the bleachers.
It was a heart-warming sight for a Vol on a cold day in Nashville. My favorite Vandy-Vol moment.