Although the in state rivalry between the Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores is not as big of a game as some of the other matchups, both teams came into the game with something to prove. Vanderbilt was trying to take the growing pains of a 4-7 season and turn it into a positive ending of the season. Tennessee was trying to finish their season 4-0 after starting their season with a frustrating 4-4 start where they blew multiple double-digit leads.
Tennessee started out the game with a 10-0 lead in their first two possessions and looked to be cruising to another victory. The game changed though, when the Vanderbilt rushing game came to life.
The score was tightened up in the second quarter when Kyle Shurmur threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield to make the score 17-14, Tennessee.
Mistakes and missed opportunities where the Achilles heel for Vanderbilt though. It started when Tennessee's Cameron Sutton returned a punt for 85 yards to stretch the score out to 27-14. On Vanderbilt’s ensuing possession, Kyle Shurmur conducted a promising 12-play, 78-yard drive before Tennessee’s defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. intercepted the ball and took the game into the half.
Even with all of the miscues, Vanderbilt had more yards than Tennessee in the first half and were still within reach as they were down 27-14 at halftime.
To start the second half, Vanderbilt was able to stop Tennessee on fourth and goal on the one yard line and it looked like the momentum was shifting to Vanderbilt’s side. This is when the wheels fell off for Vandy, though. Derek Barnett was able to sack Kyle Shurmer for a safety and on the following drive, Jalen Hurd was able to run 14 yards for a touchdown.
Tennessee made some adjustments on defense coming out of the half and were able to shut down Vanderbilt’s running game for the majority of the second half. By the end of the third quarter, the Vols had stretched the lead to 43-14.
The fourth quarter was not much different than the third, although Vanderbilt did put up two late touchdowns to the Vol’s backups. The final score of 53-28 was one that Tennessee controlled to the end and was able to give their young second string players beneficial game minutes for the future.
Tennessee’s quarterback Josh Dobbs finished a solid day with 140 yards passing, 93 yards rushing and three total touchdowns, while running back Jalen Hurd had 120 yards rushing on 19 carries and one touchdown.
Even though neither team met the expectations of their fan bases this season, the future looks bright for both programs. Especially Tennessee, who is loaded with young talent and should be much improved heading into 2016.