FINAL: Vanderbilt 38, Tennessee 13
A botched snap turning into a big first down run and back-to-back acrobatic catches were just a few of the plays that summed the Vols trip to Nashville on Saturday.
Tennessee found themselves on the losing end of their annual season-ending clash with Vanderbilt, as the Vols (5-7, 2-6 SEC) fell to the Commodores (6-6, 3-5 SEC), 38-13, effectively ending their season with a losing record for the fourth time in eight seasons and for the first time in Jeremy Pruitt’s young tenure.
The loss marks Tennessee’s third straight in the series, something Vanderbilt has managed to do for the first time since winning six in a row from 1920-1926.
Behind a near-flawless performance from Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur, the Commodores put a struggling Tennessee offense and defense in an early hole, jumping out to a 14-0 lead thanks to two scoring drives that ended in a Shurmer touchdown pass and Kalija Libscomb run.
After a field goal late in the second quarter, Vanderbilt took a 17-0 lead into the locker room as Tennessee was shutout in the first half for only the second time this season.
The Vols were seemingly able to find a spark on offense on the opening play of the third quarter, as Ty Chandler took a hand off from Jarrett Guarantano 75-yards to make it a 17-7 game and after a few stops by the Tennessee defense, it looked as if momentum had shifted.
Vanderbilt managed to take back the momentum with a drive early in the fourth quarter that saw two deep Shurmur passes hauled in remarkably in Tennessee coverage, including on Shurmur’s second touchdown pass of the game to Amir Abdur-Rahman that was snagged off of the turf to put the Commdores up, 24-7.
The game was all but put away midway through the fourth quarter in the form of an 8-play, 63-yard Vanderbilt drive that was capped off by a Khari Blasingame run to take a 31-7 lead.
The offense answered with a Guarantano touchdown pass to Marquez Callway, but it was too little too late for the Vols.
Defensive woes continue
A week after giving up nearly 500 yards of offense to Drew Lock and Missouri, the Tennessee defense struggled once again in facing Kyle Shurmur, who threw 31-for-35, 322 yards and two touchdowns.
His 88.6 passing percentage set a program record.
In total, the defense surrendered 410 yards to the Vanderbilt offense, making it the fourth time this season that an opponent has posted 400 yards or more against Tennessee.
Offense sputters again
Following a hit against Missouri that sidelined Guarantano, the signal caller was a game-time decision for Jeremy Pruitt before getting the start. The sophomore quarterback struggled mightily against the Vanderbilt defense.
Guarantano finished 13-of-29 for just 139 yards, one touchdown and one interception, which came on a deep pass just before the half.
The 139 yards were Guarantano’s lowest this season in full-game action.
Despite a couple of breakaway runs, most notably from Chandler’s 75-yard rushing score, Tennessee continued their season-long struggle on the ground, only mustering 103 total yards.