IN PHOTOS: Commodores stun Volunteers to earn bowl spot

Ziyi Liu

Hours before their matchup against in-state rivals, Tennessee, Vanderbilt earned a spot in a bowl game because of their APR and lack of enough six win teams. But that wasn’t enough for Vanderbilt, something that Derek Mason and the players made clear well before and after their victory.

Vanderbilt came out ready to upset the No. 17 Volunteers, electing to go for it on fourth-and-one on the first drive of the game. They didn’t succeed as UT easily cut through the Commodore defense, which lasted throughout the first half. Tennessee led 31-24 at halftime, as Kyle Shurmur continued last week’s success through the air.

Missed tackles and loose coverage for Vanderbilt helped contribute to Tennessee’s offensive attack, which put up 63 points the week prior against Missouri. But the Commodores would step it up in the second half, allowing just a field goal. The offense continued to make gains past Tennessee’s struggling defense, scoring 21 in the second half. Their 45 points were the most against an SEC opponent since 1971.

The bowl-clinching win was much in part to a career night from sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Throughout the season he had struggled at times, much like the past woes of Commodore quarterbacks. But he stepped up on Saturday night, passing for 416 yards in the cold weather. He completed passes to eight different players, as wide receivers Trent Sherfield and Caleb Scott racked up over 100 yards each.

Other Vanderbilt staples, Ralph Webb and Zach Cunningham, also added their own marks in the game. Webb became Vanderbilt’s all time leading rusher early in the game and finished the night with over 100 rushing yards. On defense, Cunningham came up clutch again, forcing a fumble from Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs in the third quarter. Vanderbilt would grab the lead right after on a touchdown. He also recovered a fumble in the first quarter, further cementing his status at the team’s MVP.

In a game that Vanderbilt fans will long remember, the team stepped up to their potential that had been talked about before the season. Derek Mason, who notched this signature win, said it best: “This is our state.”

Photos by Ziyi Liu and Blake Dover
Story by Josh Hamburger