This season had showcased anything but the Vanderbilt teams that have dominated the past 30 years of Commodore history, mixing dominant wins with gritty performances in a 5-5 campaign. Unfortunately, Saturday's rivalry game with Tennessee brought back all the bad memories that come with being a Vandy fan.
Vanderbilt lost to Tennessee 21-27 in overtime after missed opportunities and questionable calls marred a tough Commodore performance in Neyland Stadium. Vandy watched a 21-14 lead dissipate as Tennessee capitalized on Commodore mistakes and questionable calls to earn the win. It was the Volunteers' 28th win since 1982 against the 'Dores.
Tennessee led at the half 14-7 thanks to a smothering defense and Vanderbilt's inability to KICK A DAMN FIELD GOAL. Ryan Fowler missed attempts from 42 and 34 yards to leave points on the board and ensure that James Franklin would go for every fourth down attempt inside Tennessee territory. Vandy tied the game up at 14-14 behind Archibald Barnes's 100-yard pick six of Tyler Bray, but the Commodore offense stalled after losing a pair of key offensive linemen, making Jordan Rodgers an easy target for a vociferous Tennessee pass rush in the pocket.
However, it was an earlier 3rd quarter play that left a bad taste in the mouths of Vandy fans everywhere. Rodgers scrambled right and hit a wide-open Chris Boyd for a 70+ yard gain to the UT one-yard line. However, the play was called back on a clipping call that had little impact on the play itself. In the span of two plays, the Commodores had gone from a potential first-and-goal at the UT one to a 2nd-and-46 at the Vanderbilt 1.
Vandy still managed to lead after pinning UT inside their own five yard line and recovering their ensuing punt on the Tennessee 35 yard line. The team turned 3rd-and-20 into a first down in the red zone, leading to a VU touchdown and a 21-14 lead with 12:21 to play. Rodgers hung in the pocket just long enough to deliver a perfect strike to Chris Boyd for a 20 yard score in a surefire highlight reel play.
But Tennessee came back, and every Vanderbilt fan felt a slow trickle of bile rise in their throats in response.
Tauren Poole led the Vols most of an 80 yard drive that seemed to have stalled at the Vandy five. The 'Dores blocked Michael Palardy's field goal and looked to be in control of the game, but Sean Richardson got called for running into the kicker, giving UT fourth-and-goal from the two. They went for it, and Da'Rick Rogers's incredible catch in the corner of the end zone tied the game up at 21-21.
Vandy had a chance to win late, driving into UT territory, but Rodgers was intercepted by Prentiss Wagner with just 20 seconds remaining at the Tennessee 35. The game went to overtime, where Rodgers was intercepted again, and this time the Volunteers returned the turnover 90 yards for a touchdown, piling onto the drinking problems of Commodore fans across the country.
Both teams are now 5-6 after Saturday's contest. Vandy will have to beat Wake Forest next week to ensure bowl eligibility with a sixth win. Franklin and his 'Dores lost a great opportunity to prove that they were a different team than in years past. Unfortunately, losing a heartbreaker to Tennessee, based off bad mistakes and questionable calls, was probably the most familiar thing Commodore fans have seen all season.