Josh Dobbs turned Tennessee's season around - and that included their first win over Vanderbilt since 2011. The mobile quarterback relied on his legs to carry the Volunteers over Vandy 24-17 and make his team bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Patton Robinette returned behind center to add some life to the Commodore offense, but it wasn't enough as they fell to 3-9 in Derek Mason's first season as head coach. The 'Dores battled back after an awful first quarter, but ultimately couldn't pull off the upset against their in-state rivals. While it's little consolation, Vandy's defensive effort was the best the team has seen all season.
Dobbs ran for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win. Vandy's passers combined to complete just 13 of their 30 passes in a game that only featured 534 yards of total offense. Stephen Weatherly was a monster on defense, recording a sack and three other tackles for loss on the evening.
Tennessee got off to a fast start, scoring first when Cameron Sutton returned a Colby Cooke punt 76 yards for a touchdown. A big Vandy stand in the red zone erased a 1st-and-goal situation for the Vols, but they still managed a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. At that point, the 'Dores had completed just one pass. Things looked bleak.
Vanderbilt recovered behind Robinette. The sophomore quarterback returned to the game in the second quarter after Johnny McCrary threw a bad interception in the Tennessee end zone. A Torren McGaster pick set Vandy up for a 36-yard field goal of their own. One UT three-and-out later, the sophomore QB led Vandy 88 yards in 12 plays to tie this game at 10 apiece. He found Steven Scheu wide open along the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown pass that energized the Commodore sideline.
It also sparked the Vols as well. Tennessee responded with a 94 yard drive that culminated in a one-yard Dobbs touchdown run. The score was 17-10 UT at the half.
Dobbs wasn't done there. The quarterback gave the Vandy defense headaches late in the third quarter when he shook off a pair of Commodore defenders to score on an eight-yard touchdown. That capped off a 75-yard in which the sophomore quarterback extended several plays with his legs and effectively gassed out the Commodore D. Fortunately, Robinette stepped up to get his defense some rest time on the ensuing drive.
He drove the 'Dores 71 yards - 19 of which came on a third-and-15 scramble - to set up a tremendous Ralph Webb touchdown run that cut UT's lead to 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt had a chance to capitalize on that momentum when Dobbs threw his second interception of the game to Torren McGaster, but Robinette returned the favor two plays later to drain the excitement from the home sideline. Though Tennessee couldn't capitalize on the opportunity, the punt that followed rolled out at the Vandy two-yard line and buried this team deep in their own territory.
That was the straw that broke the camel's back in Nashville. Vandy couldn't produce a first down on that drive, but held Tennessee at the Commodore 35 yard line to get the ball back with 1:44 left to play. Robinette drove his team to the UT 49, but his fourth-and-10 pass fell short of an open Trent Sherfield to clinch the Volunteer win.
Vanderbilt fans now get to take solace in a year where the SEC East went through an objectively terrible season and the 'Dores still went 0-8 in league play. After tonight, their closest conference loss was by 10 points. This season was a disaster, but it ended like so many Commodore season have in the past - with a moral victory.
On to basketball.