Harrison Bailey threw for over 200 yards, two touchdowns and completed 81% of his passes, Velus Jones Jr. caught seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tennessee defense controlled the Vanderbilt offense for most of the night.
It’s not a win to write home about by any means, but at least the Vols came out and did what they were supposed to do.
The Vols defense took care of business on Vandy’s opening drive, forcing the Commodores into a three-and-out. Tennessee immediately faced a 3rd and 10 on its first possession, but Bailey’s pass to Josh Palmer came up just short and the Vols had to punt after their own three-and-out.
Vanderbilt went three-and-out on its next drive and the Vols faced a 3rd and 1 right off the bat, but Bailey was able to move the sticks with his legs. Eric Gray then ripped off 13 yards on three straight runs to set the Vols up at the UV20. Bailey then found a wide-open Princeton Fant in the end zone for the game’s first score. Toby Wilson’s PAT was good and the Vols led, 7-0, with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
Harrison Bailey hits a wide open Princeton Fant for a 6 yard TD to give Tennessee (-15) a 7-0 lead— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) December 12, 2020
Vanderbilt immediately responded on its next drive. The Dores were able to march down the field and Ken Seals capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 19-yard strike to Cam Johnson in the end zone. Vanderbilt converted two third downs and a 4th and 1 on that drive, but the highlight was placekicker Sarah Fuller, who drilled her first-ever PAT attempt to tie the game at seven with 1:50 left in the first quarter. Fuller is now the first woman to score in a Power 5 game in NCAA history.
It took just five plays for the Vols to get down to the UV8, which was aided by a big run by Brian Maurer. Disaster struck when Bailey was hit as he was throwing, which caused a fumble. Vanderbilt recovered the ball and ran it out to their own 26. Seals hit Amir Abdur-Rahman on the first play of the drive for 46 yards down to the UT28, but Tennessee’s defense held tough and forced a 39-yard field goal attempt. Pierson Cooke’s field goal was good and Vandy led, 10-7, with 12:03 left in the second quarter.
The quarterback rotation continued as J.T. Shrout started the next drive. Tennessee’s situation started to become a bit dire as the Vols went three-and-out and faced a 4th and 6 from the UT29, but Paxton Brooks hit Henry To’o To’o on a perfectly designed fake punt for 31 yards to the UV40. Tennessee couldn’t get anything done afterward, however, and had to punt the ball away.
Tennessee stole a possession when Bryce Thompson stepped in front of Johnson and took Seals’ pass to the house to give Tennessee a 13-10 lead. Wilson’s PAT was good and the Vols led, 14-10, after Thompson’s second interception of the season. It was an incredible play that should make a couple of highlight lists.
To’o To’o came through with another big play as he sacked Seals close to Vandy’s end zone, ending the Dores’ next drive. Vandy punted and Tennessee took over at the UV41. Shrout found Velus Jones Jr. three plays later for a 23-yard touchdown and the Vols led, 21-10, with 5:52 left in the first half.
Tennessee’s defense continued to make life hell for Vanderbilt. Shrout and the offense were given the chance to put one more drive together before halftime and they took advantage of the situation. Shrout completed all three of his passes for 51 yards, which included a 26-yard throw to Jalin Hyatt, who outraced defenders to the end zone to make it a 28-10 game with :44 seconds left in the second half.
Vanderbilt was able to attempt a 54-yard field goal, but Cooke’s attempt went wide right and the Vols held onto their 18-point lead heading into halftime.
Bailey started the second half for the Vols and found Hyatt for a 25-yard pass on the first snap. Hyatt took the Vols into Vandy territory and at this point, Tennessee was receiving excellent play from its quarterbacks. Bailey was 8-of-8 for 92 yards and a touchdown while Shrout was 6-of-12 for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Two Ty Chandler runs took the Vols into the red zone. He then finished off the drive with an easy 20-yard touchdown run to put the Vols up, 35-10, with 12:50 left in the third quarter. The run marked Tennessee’s eighth play of 20 yards or more in the game.
Neither team could get anything going for a while after this, but it’s worth nothing that Vanderbilt tried to go for it on a 4th and 7 with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter and the Tennessee defense was able to come up with a stop. The good feeling didn’t last long, however, as Shrout threw his first interception on the night.
Vanderbilt took over at the UT35 after a 30-yard return by Gabe Jeudy-Lally, but a holding call on first down doomed any shot at points for the Commodores.
The Dores were able to find the end zone on their next drive, though. It looked like another first down holding penalty would kill the drive, but Seals hit Ben Bresnahan for a 20-yard gain on first down to get the Dores out from behind the chains. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Deandre Johnson moved Vanderbilt into the red zone and Seals threaded the needle to Bresnahan for a 16-yard touchdown on the next play. Vanderbilt cut Tennessee’s lead to 35-17 after Fuller’s second PAT went through the uprights.
As it turns out, Tennessee wasn’t done scoring, either. Bailey hit Jones Jr. across the middle, who broke a tackle and took it 74 yards to the house on first down. The play is good for Tennessee’s longest play from scrimmage this year.
The Vols would go on to win, 42-17. Tennessee finished with 540 net yards of offense that included 212 net yards on the ground. Vanderbilt finished with 292 net yards of offense. Tennessee’s defense held Vanderbilt’s rushing offense to just 1.7 yards per carry, which marked the second straight game where the Vols held their opponent to less than 2.0 yards per carry.
Tennessee will take on the No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies next Saturday, December 19. Kickoff is currently set for 12PM EST.