Vols still in the hunt

Missed kick helps UT keep control of East

It was about the power of positive thinking, they said. It was about will and heart, they said.

But in the end Saturday it was out of their hands. All they could do was what Jerod Mayo did:

Watch helplessly as Vanderbilt's 49-yard game-winning field-goal attempt sailed toward the goal posts.

"I tried to block it," Mayo, Tennessee's middle linebacker, said, "then I just turned to watch.

"The thing started drifting and I just said, 'Thank God' and turned and walked off the field."

Mayo and 19th-ranked Tennessee walked off the field at Neyland Stadium relieved winners - and, in the bargain, still contenders to claim an SEC Eastern Division title next week at Kentucky.

The Vols (8-3, 5-2 SEC) overturned a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Vanderbilt 25-24 on Daniel Lincoln's 33-yard field goal with 2:46 to play.

But it wasn't a sure thing until Vandy's Bryan Hahnfeldt pushed a 49-yard kick wide left with 33 seconds left.

The kick grazed the outside of the left upright. Tennessee's escape was that close.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "We just didn't win."

That wasn't empty rhetoric.

The Commodores (5-6, 2-6 SEC) - who did win here two years ago - held the ball for 7 minutes, 24 seconds longer than Tennessee. They played turnover-free and limited the Vols to 2-of-12 on third-down conversions.

Mackenzi Adams put Tennessee on its heels with three touchdown passes, two in boosting the Commodores to a 17-9 halftime lead and a third, to George Smith, to make it 24-9 with 9:00 left in the third quarter.

It would be two more possessions before the Vols began their rally.

Quarterback Erik Ainge, erratic after firing a touchdown pass to Lucas Taylor on the opening drive of the game, finally got his groove back.

He hit Josh Briscoe with a 7-yard TD pass with 14:45 to play. That closed the gap to 24-16.

His 5-yard scoring strike to Austin Rogers with 7:14 left narrowed it to 24-22.

Because Lincoln's extra-point attempt in the first quarter had been blocked, Tennessee tried a 2-point conversion to get even. Ainge's pass was incomplete.

The Vols' defense forced a third consecutive three-and-out series, which freshman Dennis Rogan punctuated with a 45-yard punt return.

UT set up at the Vandy 33 with 5:50 to play. The Vols reached the 16 before stalling and it was up to Lincoln.

The redshirt freshman wasn't in the best frame of mind. In addition to the blocked extra point, a first-half field-goal try had bounced off the upright.

But just as he did against South Carolina three weeks ago, Lincoln came through when the chips were down.

"As soon as it left my foot, I knew it was good," he said. "It was time to celebrate."

Not so fast.

A crowd of 105,077 swallowed its celebration as Vandy's D.J. Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the UT 42.

The defense appeared to have done its job until DeAngelo Willingham was flagged for pass interference.

First down, Vanderbilt at the UT 31 with 1:50 to play.

But the Vols weren't budging, and on fourth-and-10, the outcome rested on Hahnfeldt.

The kick was plenty long but began to drift to the left.

"I thought, 'Lord, just give me a little bit of wind,' '' said UT defensive tackle Dan Williams. "I really feel the Lord blessed us and it's our destiny to be in Atlanta."

First, the Vols have to be in Lexington.

If they beat Kentucky, it's on to Atlanta for the Dec. 1 SEC championship game against LSU. If not, Georgia backs into the East crown.

The Kentucky game was beginning to look irrelevant the way Vandy chewed up the Vols well into the third quarter.

Adams' 5-yard TD pass to tight end Brad Allen capped a 17-play drive to give the 'Dores a 7-6 lead.

Following a 33-yard Lincoln field goal, Vandy raced 76 yards with Adams finding Jeff Jennings for a 21-yard TD pass and a 14-9 lead.

Moments later, an Ainge sideways incomplete pass was ruled a lateral and Vanderbilt recovered at the UT 16. Hahnfeldt's 33-yard field goal made it 17-9 at the half.

The Commodores took the second-half kickoff and resumed the assault with Adams hitting Smith from 2 yards out for a 24-9 lead.

To that point, Vanderbilt had 237 yards of offense. It would manage only 33 more the rest of the way.

What changed?

"At halftime,'' said defensive end Xavier Mitchell, "Demonte (Bolden) and Jerod Mayo said a few things we already knew.

"(That) We've got to get our heads out of our butts and go play football."

Ainge, along with Mitchell and 21 other seniors making a final appearance in Neyland Stadium, said the Vols never lost hope.

"We weren't saying, 'I hope we can win,'" Ainge said. "I genuinely knew we were going to win that football game."

Nevertheless, they needed a break to jump-start the comeback. Still down 15 points, UT punted late in the third period.

But Vanderbilt's Broderick Stewart plowed into punter Britton Colquitt and was flagged for a personal foul, resulting in a first down.

"There's no way he (the official) couldn't call that," said Colquitt. "He really nailed me.

"I didn't even have to act."

Given a second chance, the Vols went on to score 16 fourth-quarter points and sustain their SEC East hopes.

"A lesser team would have bagged it," said Fulmer.

"It got back to will and pride and the want-to, of not failing."

And, to a kick that drifted just a little bit to the left.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 194

agentorange writes:

cut made that game close by outhitnking himslef and going 5-wide in the first qtr. if you can beat ark doing something, i guarantee you can beat a less talented vandy team doing the same. those 4 pts lincoln missed would have been nice in the 4th. a win is a win. chalk it up. let's beat ky.

Ironcity writes:

A win is a win! Go Vols. Win another close one.

Volfan1 writes:

Yawn....another victory that pushes us closer to being SEC East CHAMPIONS! Yawn....another setback for the Fulmer haters. Yawn....another clutch performance when the Vols could have folded their tents and went home losers. Yawn....another year that the Gators will be watching the SECCG from their tvs. Yawn....too bad the whiners will have to wait another week, or two, or month, or year. Yawn....why get excited? WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And all the morons who don't like us winning can LEAVE!

inquiry writes:

I wonder too if Cut was trying to get a lead in the 1st qtr too fast, forgettting what beat Arkansas.. in fact, we had to play catch up.. we have a run game now, and that should be our focus.. run, Defense and special teams.. the passing game was pathetic as was the play calling by Coach Cut today.. bout lost the game for us.. Jeeze, quit that stuff Vols..

Oenoboy writes:

My girlfriend had just finished carving the crow and started decorating me a coffin shaped cake with "RIP Phil" on it. Whew! That was a meal I wasn't looking forward to.

Now I'm going to grill myself a Ribeye and pop a bottle of Pinot to celebrate.

Proud of our boys for not giving up.

GO VOLS!!!

volbeck writes:

the 5 wide set was working just fine until erik started reverting to 2005 form. vandy's strentgh on defense is their linebackers and that set takes them out of the game.

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

This was an exciting game to watch. I was angry and frustrated up until the middle of the third quarter but then I saw the Vols start playing with some heart! I know we are going to see the usual suspects posting negatives but I don't care at this point what anyone like that says. This team is not perfect. They still make a lot of mistakes and in this game it took a while to get it together...But they DID and they WON. Anytime a team can come from behind against a quality opponent and win the game makes me proud and excited. Perfect at home in 2007!! What a year....Now all we gotta do is take care of business at KY.

This has been a Jeckyll and Hyde season no doubt and we saw the Hyde team come out in the second half. I'm kinda glad that it was such a close game! It will remind the kids that they have to put forth their A game to beat KY. I know they can do it. I have the utmost faith in theys guys. They have character, heart, and spunk. They are what champions are made of. Rocky Top? How about Rocky Balboa? Maybe we should steal the "Eye of the Tiger" theme from LSU LOL.

Guys the vast number of the Vol nation are behind you 100%...You have the best fans in the nation right behind you. Go out there next saturday and give your all for Tennessee, thats all anyone asks or expects. Way to go and TAME THEM CATS!!!!

invisiblekid writes:

I think Vandy deserves some credit, they took it to the Vols for most of the game. They played well and, although they didn't have any turnovers, the roughing call should count as one. Not saying it was a bad call or anything but if that doesn't happen, I would probably be in a much worse mood right now.

BigOrangeVol29 writes:

Wow, that game was way too close for my liking. I had heard all week about how the Vols were motivated by all the negative talk that they had been hearing, well apparently they have to have their backs against the wall to play at their top level. Granted, it's a win and it puts us 1 win closer to Atlanta, but they scared the "you-know-what" out of me with this one. Maybe this will be a game that helps our d because Vandy ran it right at us and somehow, someway they found a way to bow their neck in the waning moments and pulled it out. Whew!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

One more thing. I want to thank a fellow poster (he knows who he is) for enjoying the game with me today at Ivar's. I enjoyed it and we'll do it again soon.

invisiblekid writes:

Word just in slovog, the Vols won. Try to enjoy it.

JETnTN writes:

Great comeback!! 15 straight passes in the 1st quarter?? Let's pound the rock! I have my tix lined up for the ATL! Let's go vols one more W to get there!!!

mdvol writes:

Survive and advance.

volbeck writes:

i wonder if bama will have 92000 at their next spring game?

King30 writes:

Player of the game...NO DOUBT...
Dennis Rogan! 146 return yards. A 41 yard kickoff return AND a 45 yard punt return (the BIG one!), to set up the winning field goal.
Nice job rookie!

cmcvol writes:

I just want us to play Va Tech ( THE most overrated & overranked fb team in the country every year) in Jan.

DCVol writes:

go vols! It was ugly as hell but I'll take it... The heisman trophy doesn't come through neyland this year and neither does vandy's bowl invite!

Oenoboy writes:

I think TouchdownTN probably drank it all slovog. I wander if his wife lets him back in the house.

creepykev#228270 writes:

I thought the offensive play calling was horrible. Foster is a good back give him the ball 25 to 30 times a game and we win most of them. Going five wide receivers with no back was truly retarded. Just run the ball.

volbeck writes:

i concur king. the future looks great in the return game.

VolFan4Life writes:

In mid-season, this was a game that Tennessee would have lost 31-12. Their ability to rise up both defensively and offensively with their backs against the wall in the 4th quarter shows that they've matured some in the latter half of the season.

Hopefully, the way they had to pull it out at the end to keep from losing will keep them focused on taking care of business against Kentucky next week.

Hope to see lots of orange at the Dome on 12-1!

King30 writes:

15 consecutive passes in the first quarter???
Is that right???
After the way Arian was running the ball?
OMG when will Cutcliffe learn...

volbeck writes:

erik ainge coundnt hit the broad side of a barn in the second and third quarters. that has nothing to do with the play calling. the five wide set worked fine and they only did it for one drive.

Oenoboy writes:

You guys want to read something funny? Go to the "Vols Have a Reason to Beat Vandy" thread and read the emotions of the posters during the game.

It's hilarious.

C123456 writes:

Great comeback.

Why?

"Character and heart" - Coach Fulmer

bshell12 writes:

cutcliffe has his own agenda and the University of Tennessee is not tops on his list, he wants to get big numbers for him and ainge instead of pounding away at opponents and blowing them away!!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

Woo-hooooo!!!!!

LA Monroe beat Bama!!!...LOL sweet justice. See peopl! See what going out and paying a coach a cool 4 mill gets you?

I have a theory. Nick Saban is a great coach and I know he'll have Bama turned around in a few years but my belief is that sometimes even great coaches just don't "fit" at some schools...and some programs just don't fit with certain coaches. Saban doesn't have the ties to Bama football or the SEC that other coaches do. While he fit well at LSU, I'm not so sure he'll ever fit at Bama.

And that's the delimma that UT faces. Even when the day comes that we have to recruit a new coach, it is a roll of the dice if he doesn't have emotional investment in the school or the conference. I hope we find someone that fits that bill when the day comes.

mdvol writes:

tngeoff....Rogan is the man! Hope Harrison Smith is enjoying freezing his ass off. Golden Tate, too.

vanvol writes:

Congratulations Vols on a WIN in what has been a crazy season. Concentrate in practice this week and get prepared to play one helluva game.

The Cats bring this:

A good QB who is a bit slow footed in the pocket, an accurate passer (strong arm with smooth motion) and good decision maker on audibles. Sanders has helped this kid in a big way.

Four receivers who are deceptively good: Johnson, Tamme, Lyons and Burton. Be careful with Lyons because the other three get coverage and he benefits from it.

Lock and Little are good backs ...for the latter, watch the Music City Bowl tapes from last year.

On defense watch Wesley Woodyard...he is a game breaker. And Braxton Kelly. Ask LSU.

Bottom line: this is a dangerous KY team that really believes it can beat UT. In past years they have tried hard, but this year they believe they can line up and play....and win.

GO VOLS!

volbeck writes:

do you think harrison smith is going to seek a hardship waiver and transfer to UT?

GerryOP writes:

So, we have proven that we can come from behind to win -- against Vanderbilt! Am I happy with the win? You betcha'! But my cardiac surgeon was standing by. This team has far too much talent for us fans to have to suffer through what we had to watch today. What does it take to motivate them to perform up to an acceptable level of excellence?

However, looking on the bright side, at least we will not have to hear PAF's inane comments about why we did not win today! Perhaps, another perfect storm ... or ... would it have been a lack of magic dust? I wonder which FootVol team has tickets to Lexington next Saturday?

volfans_1#225396 writes:

HOLY FREAKING SH*T !!!!!! WHY DOES CUTCLIFFE GET SO DAMN STUBBORN WITH THROWING THE BALL ? RUN RUN RUN RUN !!!!! GLAD WE WON CAUSE I'M GOING TO THE KENTUCKY GAME AND DIDN'T WANT IT TO BE MEANINGLESS. GO VOLS SKIN THE KITTIES !!!!!!!

volbeck writes:

how many times has everyone complained that cut was too conservative in the past? obviously passing the ball a lot was a part of the game plan. he probably was counting on erik having a good game.

BigManVolFan writes:

Man what a game..who'd of thought we'd be down by 15 heading into the 4th quater against Vandy??

Ainge played like phooey the first 2 1/2 qauters but turned it around late..Foster ran like a stud, but ran way to much side line to side line...

Has anyone watched J. Hefney tackle someone...I think he tries to get em in a headlock and slam em? He tackles way to high for someone who is 5'9.

Tennessee can thank Mr. Dennis Rogan for this win...without him, Tennessee get beats...He was the game changer...Wonder what kind of year we'd of had if Rogan had been the return man from game one?

Anyhow...What an exciting game!! Shouldnt have been that close but what an exciting game!!

DENNIS ROGAN FOR HEISMAN IN 2008!!

steve22043#233791 writes:

Agree with waht several of you have said: it was ugly but I'll take it. I think the days are gone when we can count on Vandy and KY being pushovers year after year. It's taken a while but the scholarship limits have evened things out a bit. Plus my bro-in-law who is a high school coach says nearly all the high school coaches are telling their hot shot athletes to forget about their childhood favorite team and who won the national championship last year and focus on who the schools they're thinking about are recruiting at their position and who they've recruited the previous two years. For more and more players the goal is to maximize the probability of getting playing time. That spreads out the talent.

mdvol writes:

GerryOP, take the win, man. You could be sitting in Tuscaloosa right now.

djstatik writes:

Well Florida beat Florida Atlantic 59-20, which is the same score they beat us, so we are at least as good as Florida Atlantic right? Without that roughing the kicker call we lose the game. Fulmer choosing to punt when we are down be 15 late in the 3rd quarter? Luckily, Good ol' Bobby was clutching that lead so close to his chest his offense couldn't breath.

In my opinion, the come from behind win against a 5-5 Vandy team was good medicine. Hopefully the team will be ultra focused for a very talented Kentucky team next week. I'm hoping we squeak by that one, with Kentucky making more mistakes then we make plays. Then we're 17 point underdogs in the dome. Put the Vols backs' to the wall and you're going to see some TEETH!

Go Vols!!

volbeck writes:

that kick by vandy hit the pole!!! i didn't notice that until i saw the replay on espn.

GerryOP writes:

Hey mdvol, been to a lot of places but never Tuscaloosa! Anyway, be well!

shaymous writes:

hey slovog, we win next week and we are in the SEC championship game, what is wrong with all these morons, we won, maybe not pretty, but OUR VOLS won, and that is the bottom line. I am enjoying the win, and hopefully next week, will be drinking a keg of ORANGE KOOLAID, while the gators are sippin on some citrus. wake em all up slovog, lets get a win next week, and off to Atlanta.

SalVol22 writes:

Agree. RUN,RUN,RUN and when we are done running lets pound the rock some more. I think our defense is growing up and they need to focus on stopping KY, best way to do that, let Arian and Montario run wild and win the time of possession. Love to get to the SEC Championship! BTW, the gators will be watching on TV regardless!

cphil writes:

WHEW!

Thank God for the roughing the kicker penalty that gave the Vols the spark they needed in the second half to spark a great comeback. I'd hate to be the Vandy player that got into Colquitt.

Ainge put up some nice numbers even as ugly as the game looked. Daniel Lincoln kept his cool after the missed PAT and FG like a seasoned vet. Jerod Mayo played with passion like it was really Al Wilson that snuck into the game wearing his uniform.

I have just one burning question. What was the coaching staff thinking when they decided to try to pass the ball with 47 seconds left in the first half? (Instead of running out the clock and going to the locker room at the half down five.) That's kind of play calling ranks right up there with Hitler trying to fight WWII on two fronts....it was bound to lead to disaster.

EHSvols23 writes:

WHAT A WIN!!!! I lost a fresh beer when Vandy missed that kick, but who cares, I DONT! I can't decide, maybe someone can help me, but who is the best Freshman on this team? I bet Dennis Rogan gets SEC Freshmen of the Week, this week. One more thing, I must have really missed the boat on this one during recruiting, but who is Harrison Smith and Gordon Tate..I think I have seen Tate play for some NCAA team this year, but cant remember, what happened with these two??? Let's go beat UK! My brother and girlfriend defected on me years ago and became Cat fans, so I would love to walk around with number 23 on UT's belt!

GO VOLSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

agentorange writes:

by the way, the fans were lame as hell again. how can we wake up the corpses? maybe some free buffets if you yell for four qtrs? it's a disservice to the team.

PureOrange writes:

We can only thank Vandy's coaches for this win. Vandy outplayed us badly, and they would have beaten us soundly if their coaches had not pulled the ole Tennessee plan of playing not to lose.

It is a win, but we were lucky. It will take much more effort next week. We had better hit the field with the intent of winning and play that way on every play.

mikeinknoxville writes:

Tonight I celebrate..tomorrow i start thinking about how in the Hades are we going to come out of Lexington with a win. But tonight I celebrate

Volnut writes:

cphil,

Eric made a POOR choice in dumping the ball off to his back. Should have thrown it away. BUT I liked seeing us try to get points before halftime. FB is a game of momentum and if we can get anything on the board it's a huge plus.

CJC, had me in tossing the hat a few times with the zone. I always hated it as a player,(lost the Gulf Coast South Conf due to extensive zone play and at the time was a lost to a 0-9 Troy State (Troy now) team lead by first year head coach Chain Gailey,)and I loathe it more as a spectator. Was so relieved to seem him stick to man in the 4th.

FWBVol writes:

OK, let me get this straight, when we run the ball too much and don't do well, Cut and CPH need to open it up with the pass and not be so conservative, but when Ainge hits a terrible cold streak, and can't hit the Jumbotron with a pass people question the staff for not pounding the rock? What does it take to make some people happy? I know, UT has to beat everyone 45-0 and rush for 200 yards while throwing for 250 yards.

Today's game reminded me some of the 1987 Vandy game. Vanderbilt jumped out to a big lead, something like 28-0 before UT came back and won 38-36. No matter how well the Commodores talk, or play for three quarters or 55 minutes, for most of the last 50 years, Tennessee has been Tennessee, and Vandy has been Candy no matter what the respective records.

Too funny, I'm watching the ESPN scoreboard show and they just showed the ND highlights against Duke. Lou Holtz immediately starts raving about what a great win it was for the Irish and how good they looked...against the Blue Devils. Sounds like old Lou has been sipping some Kool-Aide of his own.

Tennessee's loss to Alabama is starting to look more and more impressive for the rest of the SEC. It looks like Saban, who didn't care that much about the rivalry, used all his coaching skills against the Vols as the Tide continues to roll out to sea. At least we beat our Louisiana weak sister.

Next week won't be easy against Kentucky, but I believe we win if we play smart agressive football.

JesseJames writes:

We have got to get better at covering kicks, that nearly cost the Vols the game. 67 yd kick returned 55. Sheesh. This has been a problem all year. Hats off to the defense for stoping them afterward. Scary though to think it comes down to Vandy missing a field goal. A win is a win and I'm sure we'll take that any day of the week. I am certainly proud at least that we won all home games though. Now just beat KY and head to Atlanta...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Now we can talk about the Cats after dispatching Vandy! Ga took it them running the ball. Can we? Man I hope so, Ga pressure of Woodson lost the Cats some field position! Couldn't watch that last Vandy FG attempt! Whew! Liked Vandy calling those last time-outs to prolong the agony! Get ready for the Cats, Vols! Fourth quarter defense deserved kudoes!

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