Touchdown: Interception return, review ends overtime, 27-21

Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon (24) intercepts a ball meant for  Vanderbilt running back Wesley Tate (24) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Gordon returned the ball for a touchdown giving UT the win in overtime 27-21.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon (24) intercepts a ball meant for Vanderbilt running back Wesley Tate (24) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Gordon returned the ball for a touchdown giving UT the win in overtime 27-21.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Game recap: Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21

Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon (24) , center, intercepts a ball meant for  Vanderbilt running back Wesley Tate (24) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Gordon returned the ball for a touchdown giving UT the win in overtime 27-21.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon (24) , center, intercepts a ball meant for Vanderbilt running back Wesley Tate (24) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Gordon returned the ball for a touchdown giving UT the win in overtime 27-21.(AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Saturday night found Tennessee with considerable unfinished business to address at Neyland Stadium.

Among the agendas on the table:

Could the Vols stay in the hunt for a bowl?

Could they finally claim their first SEC win of the season?

Could they survive Vanderbilt’s transformation from traditional doormat to late-season force?

The answer — thumbs-up.

In a game defined by turnovers, Tennessee won 27-21 on the biggest of the night, Eric Gordon’s 90-yard interception return in overtime.

“We went out there and just gritted out a win,” said coach Derek Dooley.

“It was a big step for our program to be able to take one in the fourth quarter and find a way to win.”

Quarterback Tyler Bray played for the first time since he suffered a fractured thumb on Oct. 8 and re-energized the Tennessee offense with two touchdown passes to Da’Rick Rogers.

The second, a 2-yard connection with Rogers with 6:27 to play, tied the score 21-21 and broke a streak of five games in which Tennessee had failed to score in the second half.

The Vols are 5-6 and can become bowl eligible with a win at Kentucky to close the season.

They also are 1-6 in SEC play, the latest UT has gone into a season before notching a league victory.

Bray was 16-of-33 for 189 yards passing. He also energized the Vanderbilt defense by throwing two interceptions that led to touchdowns, one of them a 100-yard return for a score by Archibald Barnes in the third quarter.

“You could blame it on the rust,” said Bray, “but it was me throwing it to the other team.”

But Gordon produced the biggest turnover of them all.

Regulation ended 21-21. Tennessee won the toss and elected to start overtime on defense.

Vanderbilt made one first down and on third-and-6 at the 11, junior quarterback Jordan Rodgers threw to his right for Wesley Tate.

Gordon picked off the pass and raced all the way to the south end zone, touching off a wild celebration for the crowd announced at 91,367 and the Tennessee players who swarmed into the end zone.

“Words can’t describe it,” said the sophomore from Nashville.

The officials, however, first ruled that Gordon had recovered a fumble and that his knee was down.

Television replays showed that wasn’t the case. The play was reviewed and ruled a touchdown.

So Tennessee celebrated again.

“We’ve got one more game,” said Dooley, “but we got off the snide tonight.”

Turnovers touched nearly every phase of the game. There were four by Vandy (5-6, 2-6) and two by Tennessee.

Rod Wilks’ fumble recovery and 25-yard return in the first quarter facilitated a short Tennessee drive for a 1-yard touchdown run by Tauren Poole and a 7-0 lead.

The Commodores got even in the second quarter when Barnes made his first interception and returned it 28 yards to the Tennessee 6.

On the next play, Zac Stacy burst into the end zone.

UT linebacker Austin Johnson made his fourth interception in five games, but the Vols weren’t able to capitalize.

Bray was sharp in a second-quarter drive that covered 80 yards and ended in a 17-yard touchdown pass to Rogers, who used his size to shield the ball from defender Trey Wilson at the goal line.

The Vols led 14-7 at the half but penalties, mistakes and short punts conspired to keep them in bad field position.

Their one promising drive in the third quarter reached the Vandy 3 before Barnes made his second interception at the goal line and went the length of the field to make it 14-14.

UT’s poor kicking game left Vanderbilt only 35 yards to cover for the go-ahead score.

The payoff came on a 20-yard, third-down pass from Rodgers to Chris Boyd. The Commodores had their first lead, 21-14, with 12:21 to play.

The Vols answered with an 80-yard drive that ended with Bray’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Rogers on fourth-and-goal.

Only it first ended with Michael Palardy missing a 23-yard field goal. Vandy’s Sean Richardson was penalized for running into Palardy.

It wasn’t an automatic first down, but moved the ball from the 5 to the 2.

This time Dooley decided to go for six.

“I couldn’t put the field-goal team out there again after that (bad kick),” he said.

So Bray found Rogers on a fade route for the touchdown and it was 21-21.

Vanderbilt drove into Tennessee territory in the final minute of regulation but Prentiss Waggner’s interception with 20 seconds on the clock nullified the threat and the game went to overtime.

Tennessee is 10-3 in overtime games.

The 2010 season ended in an overtime loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, the second game of the season in which an official’s ruling put time back on the clock in games the Vols appeared to have won.

Had the final ruling not been overturned, Gordon’s touchdown would have been disallowed and Tennessee would have had to score on its overtime possession to win.

“I don’t care how this happened,” Dooley said, “but we got one.”

They got one against Vanderbilt for the 28th time in the past 29 years.

They got one despite losing both starting safeties, Brian Randolph and then Waggner, during regulation.

They got one a week after being embarrassed 49-7 at Arkansas.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a football team in all my years,” Dooley said.

“The adversity these guys have gone through and what happened last week, I know nobody was expecting us to come out and do much.”

Follow Mike Strange at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 351

drvol writes:

Whew! Can't believe we pulled that out!

SummittsCourt writes:

Awesome! Finally a break goes the way of the Vols!

OrangeBlur writes:

Another W over Vandoormat. Get Kentucky.

Millisa writes:

Glad we won Congrats to Eric Gordon :) :) :) We got to play and get better if they want to beat ky.

VolGrad writes:

I can sleep tonight.

Thanks guys, and Go Vols!!!

1963VOLS writes:

Third times the charm, The monkey from LSU, NC games are finally off our backs,gbo

STLVOLS writes:

Rivals.com-Vols ranked #12 in football recruiting commits next year

born2ride writes:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

allvol32 writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Awesome! Finally a break goes the way of the Vols!

Agreed, as soon as I saw the zebras getting involved I figured that we were toast but the video evidence was indisputable - TN notches a big win against SEC foe Vandy - hell yeah!!!!!

SummittsCourt writes:

A win next week and the Vols may end up back in the Music City Bowl, but that's OK because the way this year has gone, a chance at 7 wins would be a great spring board for next season.

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

UT 30
Ky 23

voltan30 writes:

Wow! Can the officials be any worse? I hate calling a win over Vandy a big win but I'll take it. Looks like we are going bowling. Beating Kentucky is as sure as death.

bobbyutvol writes:

RIGHT call Knee never touched the ground Whistle could not have blown. GREAT win for the VOLS, Played very hard. Defense played great & D Rogers what a catch overall great effort.

FWBVol writes:

At the end of the day when it comes to Tennessee-Vanderbilt football, no matter what the respective records, Tennessee is still Tennessee and Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt.

WHAT A GAME!!!

Tru138 writes:

I know Vandy isn't the standard by which we want to measure the Vols, and I know the Vols ain't been burning it up this year, but remember that VandyGrad/CantStandSaban/whatever guy? Don't know what his name is these days because he changes names more than his momma changes men and I have neither the time nor the energy to keep track of him, but remember all the pre-season and early season junk he talked about Vandy beating UT this year and Vandy out recruiting UT this year? Not that we really needed proof that he's an idiot, but.....

nepperso#220348 writes:

I have a feeling the Vols are going to be really good next season.

GloryDays writes:

Cograts Vols! Played with desire and heart! Great overall game! James Franklin is a pure jerk. Same old stinking Vandy!

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to born2ride:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

you are an butthole!

imw8n4u writes:

Anyone else here Corso drop an F bomb on gameday? Herbies reaction was priceless. Why is Eric Gordon not starting, all he does is make big plays!!! Finally, what an amazing game by Da'Rick, that 4th down TD catch was unbelievable. Go Vols!!!

1963VOLS writes:

in response to STLVOLS:

Rivals.com-Vols ranked #12 in football recruiting commits next year

And tha recruits will only get better,Heard alot of recruits were in the stands tonight.Bray is going to get even better next week.GBO

VolinCalif writes:

Say what one will I think it was scary and sad.
We will have to play well to beat Ky. They are out for blood and they played Ga pretty good.We still have the 2 half let downs. Can't wait to see the report card.
Go Vols and put it to Ky get a bowl.

battymom writes:

What the heck was up with the Vandy coach? What a jerk; Gordon clearly caught the ball and clearly stayed in play. The coach then throws his stuff on the field and stomps off like a child? Great sportsmanship from SEC's premiere school; Commodores should be ashamed.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to dwa7#337691:

early predict:

UT 30
Ky 23

Way to go out on a limb!

allvol32 writes:

in response to born2ride:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

Dude - you are an absolute moron, do us all a favor and go away - find another team to "not" be a fan of...idiot...your ilk is bad juju - go away...

tnvolfan98 writes:

Not sure what excited me more...scoring in the second half for the first in I can't remember when or winning the game. Definitely leaning towards the victory. Way to go VOLS!!!!

willaustin writes:

Vandy's coach has got to be one of the worse losers I've ever seen. My 4 year old asked me "Daddy, why didn't that coach shake our coach's hand like we do in soccer?". I said because he coaches at Vanderbilt son, time for bed.

Volalumnus writes:

Wow another wild end of game.
Very glad for the win.
However....
Yes i know our talent is down and we have injuries, etc, etc ...and yes that affects the quality of play, ... but our play on the field just isn't matching the talent that there is on the field.
Coaches have got to step it up.....

volman4461 writes:

Vandy's coach is a classless SOB, same phooey he pulled at Georgia.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to born2ride:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

scum bag troll

skyhawk836 writes:

in response to born2ride:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

I think born2ride needs a bib.

TheStupidPolice writes:

in response to STLVOLS:

Rivals.com-Vols ranked #12 in football recruiting commits next year

Too bad there are five other SEC schools that are ranked higher.

1963VOLS writes:

in response to born2ride:

This thrilling upset overtime win over "Vandy" is the biggest win of Coach Dereck Dooley's football career. It shows there are teams in the SEC that are actually worse than the Vols.

But here is why we need to give Coach Dooley more time to put the pieces together.

Coach Dooley's first year did not count because UT football was in such an awful mess when he took over. He called his first season....

YEAR ZERO

Now it is his 2nd year - but Coach Dooley has a young team, lost his starting quarterback for several games and our best wide receiver went down (plus... we can't run the ball, score in the second half and the special teams are a disaster) so Coach Dooley can say this season does not count either and call it....

YEAR ZERO - PART II

Next year - Coach Dooley still has a young team,we have more injuries and reasons for losing. Things don't go well in the SEC but we beat can still beat Vandy again so it would be....

YEAR ZERO - PART III

If we can all just be patient like his Momma says and wait until the year 2018 which will only be Coach Dooley's 4th year at Tennessee (in Dooley Time) we should see fast improvement.

We all agree it takes any coach at least 4 years to rebuild a depleted program.

Why in no time at all (Dooley time) the Vols beating other teams besides Vandy and Kentucky and the Vols will be back in the SEC race.

Go Big Orange!

What a douche!!!

Volalumnus writes:

BTW.
Vandy's coach lost some of my respect on how he left the field. I understand the fustration, but he let it control him.

pingkr62 writes:

I'm really proud of the team. It was great to see them put together a complete game by playing hard for four quarters. It was also good to see some breaks go our way for a change! I can' believe how James Franklin showed such poor sportsmanship after the game. I'm sure made all of Vandyland proud. G.B.O.!!!

VolGrad writes:

Ignore the butthole. He is sitting next to Franklin right now on the bus.

Go Vols!!!

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to 1963VOLS:

Third times the charm, The monkey from LSU, NC games are finally off our backs,gbo

I was thinking the same thing. We all would have blown a gasket had they called that int down.

Tru138 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agreed.

ctownvol writes:

I wanna see it! Does anyone have a link? Here in Atl we didn't see it.

General_Jack writes:

For tonight, glad we got the win.

battymom writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Had to do with their silly 3-D cameras for the 20 or so viewers out there with 3-d TVs. It was awful and almost impossible to watch.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

why do you say "our". every post you've made has been anti UT

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to pingkr62:

I'm really proud of the team. It was great to see them put together a complete game by playing hard for four quarters. It was also good to see some breaks go our way for a change! I can' believe how James Franklin showed such poor sportsmanship after the game. I'm sure made all of Vandyland proud. G.B.O.!!!

Yeah, I saw that too. I had respect for him but now I'm not so sure. Dooley would never do that.

peerlessvolfan writes:

This team is so different with Tyler Bray which is scary since so much is riding on that young man's shoulders. Anyway, Congrats, VOLS! Da Rick was amazing! Even if it was against the Vandy Pansies, I'll take it! Now, go get the Cats!

voodoo101 writes:

Franklin appeared to be just a tad upset about the outcome.

bigorange61 writes:

Born2Ride is just lashing out. He's been kissing Franklin's a** all week and now he looks foolish.

utvols420 writes:

I love watching James Franklin lose. He takes Spurrier's spot as the biggest sore loser.

kd45music writes:

in response to STLVOLS:

Rivals.com-Vols ranked #12 in football recruiting commits next year

We've ranked in the top 15 last two years, too. That leads me to believe coaching is lacking. It shows on the field. Hopefully we can beat Kentucky next week, get a bowl invitation even if it's to the Toilet Bowl. We need the practice, especially the coaching staff. I am convinced that's where the problem lies.

imw8n4u writes:

in response to utvols420:

I love watching James Franklin lose. He takes Spurrier's spot as the biggest sore loser.

You'll get to see it alot, remember, he's coaching Vandy.

VOLliven2it writes:

It was about what I had imagined and could have gone the other way but did not. WAY TO GO VOLS! Yes it is disappointing to go to OT with Vandy but they are better than they have been and play hard. Still, we win and even if it is Nashville, we have another chance at postseason. GO BIG ORANGE! Get ready to smack some Kats in Lexington next Sat.

pcorange writes:

in response to willaustin:

Vandy's coach has got to be one of the worse losers I've ever seen. My 4 year old asked me "Daddy, why didn't that coach shake our coach's hand like we do in soccer?". I said because he coaches at Vanderbilt son, time for bed.

Your son is much more mature than Coach Franklin! Wasn't that a poor display of sportsmanship? I could see him being so mad if it had been a bad call, but it was indisputable. This was not like what happened to us at LSU last season.

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