Joe Milton had his best game of the season, going 22/32 passing for 382 yards with 4 touchdowns. He added two more rushing touchdowns. Jaylen Wright led Tennessee on the ground with 11 carries for 75 yards. Ramel Keyton led UT with 122 receiving yards on 4 catches with 2 touchdowns.
The Vols started quickly, going 76 yards in 3 plays. Milton found Keyton for a 56-yard touchdown to cap the drive. However, Vanderbilt answered quickly, scoring on a 19-yard end around pop pass to tie it up at seven.
After the teams exchanged punts twice, Tennessee would end up scoring on their final four possessions of the half. Milton found TE McCallan Castles for a 10-yard score to go ahead 14-7. Later, Milton threw a dart after sidestepping pressure to TE Jacob Warren for a 34-yard score and 21-7 lead.
Late in the half, with the Vols leading 24-10, things got chippy. After Tyler Baron blasted Vandy QB AJ Swann on a dead ball where no one could apparently hear the whistle, Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea was incensed at no flag for a late hit being thrown. Vanderbilt players were as well, especially after the same thing happened on the next play that was belatedly blown dead. Benched ended up clearing after Baron and Vanderbilt’s Xavier Castillo exchanged shoves, with flags flying on both teams for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Things settled down and the Vols scored again on a two-yard Milton run to take a 31-10 lead into the half.
The Vols answered on their first drive of the second half, going 80 yards in 6 plays for a 38-10 lead, capped by a 46-yard touchdown to Keyton. Milton added a second two-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter for a 45-10 lead in what would be the senior’s final play at Neyland Stadium.
Nico Iamaleava, who many were seeking to start the game, came in early in the fourth quarter and finished 9 of 12 passing for 66 yards while also adding 2 runs for 15 yards. It was perhaps less time than many expected to see from him, but with it being Senior Day and how well Milton played, Heupel’s decision to play Milton for the majority of the game was certainly justified.
Vanderbilt managed to tack on two late scores to draw to within 45-24 with 3 minutes left. Gaston Moore came in with about a minute left and the Vols in the red zone. His third down pass in the end zone appeared to have been caught by Kaleb Webb, but Webb was unable to hold onto it after he went to the ground. A Charles Campbell field goal provided the final score.
The Vols will now await their bowl destination, while Vanderbilt’s season comes to an end at 2-10.