For the fourth consecutive season Tennessee football will finish with a losing record.
The program as a whole hit an all-time low on Saturday night after losing to in-state rival Vanderbilt in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1925-26.
After taking their first lead coming out of halftime, the Vols squandered away their three-point-lead on Vanderbilt’s final drive of the game, giving the Commodores their seventh victory of the season, 14-10 Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee took their first lead of the game on a Michael Palardy field goal with 9:06 left in the third quarter, and held it until Patton Robinette, who’s from nearby Maryville, Tenn., put the dagger in the Volunteers’ hearts with his five-yard touchdown-run with 16 seconds left in the game.
The game was ugly to say the least for both teams. Neither team reached 300 total yards of offense, and both teams combined for seven turnovers, four for Vanderbilt and three for Tennessee.
Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 7-0 lead Jerron Seymour put the Dores on the board with his four-yard scoring run coming after one of two Josh Dobbs interceptions.
Tennessee made their way into the Vanderbilt redzone four times throughout the game, but could only put the ball in the endzone one time against the SEC’s worst redzone defense. The one play came from Vols’ senior Raijon Neal, 95 yards and the lone touchdown for the Vols on 22 rushing attempts Saturday night.
Neal’s score helped tie the game for the Vols, but Tennessee would leave so many opportunities on the table they will undoubtedly look back at and think “what if.”
One opportunity squandered was a possession that started at the Vanderbilt 12-yard-line, and ended at the Vanderbilt 16-yard-line. After moving backwards four yards in three plays the Vols settled for a 33-yard field-goal attempt by fellow senior Palardy, who kicked the ball wide-left.
Palardy’s bad night wouldn’t end there. The Ray Guy award semifinalist shanked a punt, fumbled the snap on a punt, and threw an interception on a questionable fake field-goal call towards the end of the game.
Six points squandered by the senior and the questionable play calling alone, the difference in a win or loss for Tennessee, and the assassination of post-season hopes for a third-straight season.
After several failed drives in the second half, and four turnovers throughout the game, Vanderbilt found themselves with just over four minutes, and 92 yards of field to cover to either take victory or force overtime against the Vols.
The Dores finally went to the passing game, as they were forced to, on their final drive of the game, and marched the ball down to the Tennessee 34-yard-line before being faced with a fourth and inches situation. Instead of kicking the tying field goal, Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin elected to go for the conversion, and initially failed to come up with the yardage.
In the most controversial call of the night the play was reviewed, and although the ball could not be found on video the officials overturned their initial call, giving life back to the Commodores.
Vanderbilt immediately took advantage of their second life when Austyn Carta-Samuels connected with a wide open Jordan Matthews, who shattered the SEC career receptions record early in the game. The Dores moved the ball down to the five-yard-line before taking their second timeout with 21 seconds remaining.
The very next play Vanderbilt attempted a jump-pass, once made famous by 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow. Tennessee’s defense had it snuffed out, but failed to contain the edge as back-up quarterback Robinette ran around the edge for the go ahead score, and to give Vanderbilt their first victory in Knoxville, Tenn. since 2005.
Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4) will face Wake Forest next week, Nov. 30, before going bowling for the third-consecutive season, while Tennessee (4-7, 1-6) will wrap up yet another disappointing season against SEC foe Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) on Saturday Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., and not go bowling for a third-consecutive season
The Vols’ final game of the season will be broadcast on ESPNU.