The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Second-half surge leads Vanderbilt over Tennessee 45-34

Ziyi Liu
Vanderbilt wide receiver Caleb Scott reels in a catch for a big gain as the Commodores defeated Tennessee 45-34 at Vanderbilt Stadium November 26, 2016.

After a very explosive first half, No. 17 Tennessee had a very underwhelming second half as Vanderbilt scored 21 points unanswered to pull away in a 45-34 win. With this win, Vandy earns a bowl berth finishing the regular season 6-6. In the midst of the upset, Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb broke Vanderbilt’s career rushing record, and Tennessee right end Derek Barnett broke Tennessee’s career sack record.

Five points, 416 passing yards, 608 total offense yards and having two players with 100 receiving yards are all feats that Vanderbilt’s offense accomplished.

“All we’ve done in these past two games is pile up points against pretty good competition,” head coach Derek Mason said. “I’m proud of this offense.”

In a very back-and-forth first half, offense was the main contributor. Missed tackles for Vanderbilt’s defense were plentiful, leading to UT running back Alvin Kamara’s first two touchdowns, wide receiver Josh Malone’s 27-yard catch that would set up Kamara’s third touchdown and many more big plays for the Tennessee offense.

The few mistakes on offense were seemingly forgettable. Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden dropped a potential interception after right end Derek Barnett deflected one of Shurmur’s passes. To start the second quarter, Tennessee running back John Kelly had a fumble recovered by VU inside linebacker Zach Cunningham. On the next play, Shurmur was intercepted by defensive back Micah Abernathy on a pass intended for wide receiver Caleb Scott.

Vanderbilt seemed as though it would fall behind after turning the ball over on downs at the Tennessee 44-yard line and falling behind 21-7 early in the second quarter. Shurmur was able to keep them in the game with his arm. Most notable were two 40-plus-yard catches by Scott and a 76-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Trent Sherfield. A 20-yard touchdown catch by tight end Sam Dobbs and Webb’s nine-yard touchdown run evened the score at 21.

Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley made a 41-yard field goal to take a three-point lead after wide receiver Tyler Byrd returned the kickoff to the Vandy 28-yard line.

Webb broke the Vanderbilt rushing record with a 17-yard run to start the ensuing drive. NFL running back Zac Stacy (2009-12) formerly held the record of 3,143 yards. Another 40-yard catch by Scott set up a 31-yard field goal by kicker Tommy Openshaw to tie the game again.

“I couldn’t have planned to [break the record] in a better way,” Webb said. “Just being a part of Vanderbilt history is something that I’m gonna cherish.”

A 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Dobbs to wide receiver Josh Malone served as the final score of the first half. Barnett had a sack on a Vanderbilt Hail Mary attempt to close the half, which broke NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White’s Tennessee record for most sacks.

To open the second half, the offenses started out relatively slowly, as the first points of the half were on a 25-yard Medley field goal late in the third quarter to raise the Tennessee lead to 10.

Dropped passes were much of the reason why Vanderbilt’s offense could not stay on the field on its first drive of the half, though there were some good catches made in traffic on the following drive to keep it going. A 12-yard touchdown run by running back Khari Blasingame cut the UT lead to 34-31.

To end the quarter, a Josh Dobbs fumble was forced by Cunningham and recovered by safety Arnold Tarpley. The Vanderbilt offense worked the ball down the field, and the drive concluded with a three-yard touchdown run by Darrius Sims, giving Vandy its first lead of the game, 38-34.

Kamara and Dobbs followed up with several rushes to set up a 37-yard field goal attempt by Medley, which bounced off the right upright. Vandy running back Dallas Rivers broke a 39-yard run, followed by Webb’s overpowering of defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. to get into the endzone on a 24-yard touchdown run to ice the game.

“You need to fear the ‘V,'” Mason said. “Vanderbilt is back. It’s been fun, the journey’s been long, but now it’s time for us to get back to work.”

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About the Contributors
Will Wilson, Former Author
Ziyi Liu, Author

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