Game recap: UT 24 vs. Vanderbilt 10
AP Top 25 College Football
The interception streak ended in the first half, and Tyler Bray added a second one later in the game. But the true freshman was again solid on third down, threw a couple touchdowns to balance the equation and kept his record perfect as the starter.
Running backs C+
David Oku provided a spark early in his first significant action in weeks. The sophomore caught a 34-yard pass down the left sideline in the first half to set up a touchdown, and he finally showed some fight running between the tackles early in the game as well. Tauren Poole put the game away with a 28-yard scoring scamper.
Wide receivers B
Justin Hunter added to his highlight reel with another acrobatic touchdown. Da'Rick Rogers also showed an ability to adjust to the ball, coming back for an under-thrown ball to turn it into a 21-yard gain late in the first half. Gerald Jones had another big night converting first downs.
Running lanes were few and far between, even with Zach Fulton getting back in the lineup. Bray seemed to have enough time to work in the pocket, and UT was generally proficient in picking up the blitz. But the blocking up front on the ground needs to improve.
The pressure was inconsistent throughout the night. Malik Jackson and Gerald Williams both had good days, but they would have been a lot better if Jackson's roughing-the-passer penalty didn't wipe out a Jackson interception return for a touchdown.
Some breakdowns occurred when Vandy's Larry Smith was able to sneak past the defensive line, but Nick Reveiz had a particularly good outing in his final trip to Vanderbilt, finishing with nine tackles (six solo). Herman Lathers racked up a team-high 10 tackles, but LaMarcus Thompson had his ups and downs.
Prentiss Waggner made a slick interception in the first half to again solidify himself as the team's top ball hawk. Janzen Jackson made a number of big hits and had one of the biggest plays of the game, picking off backup quarterback Jared Funk near the goal line in the fourth quarter. Eric Gordon was reliable after missing chunks of practice during the past week because of a concussion.
Anthony Anderson made his punt-returning debut and followed suit by doing what others have done with the job: fumble it away. Short kickoffs were also a regular occurrence and punter Chad Cunningham was far from spectacular. The Vols, though, scored a rare field goal block to save face a bit.
Derek Dooley's choice of punt returner didn't work, which he repeatedly stressed in the postgame news conference was an embarrassment to him personally. His late choice to go for a first down instead of try a long field goal with a seven-point lead was a smart gamble.
The Vols will take the result, though they're well aware they way they got it won't get them into a bowl game.All month UT has faced elimination games to make it to the postseason, and collectively they did enough to make it to the final knockout round. They'll just need to throw more punches on offense.
- Austin Ward and Andrew Gribble