Tennessee Stat Book
Another terrible field-goal attempt Saturday night turned into a blessing during Tennessee's 27-21 overtime victory against Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium.
UT sophomore place-kicker Michael Palardy lined up for a 23-yard field-goal try with 6:32 left and the Vols trailing 21-14.
Palardy drilled the kick right into the line, and Vanderbilt defensive tackle Colt Nichter was credited with the block. At about the same time, Vanderbilt's Sean Richardson plowed into Palardy a split-second after the kick.
A flag was thrown, and Richardson was called for running into the kicker. Vanderbilt challenged the ruling — saying that Richardson touched the ball, which would negate the call.
After the review, officials ruled that Richardson didn't touch the ball. The Commodores were penalized 3 yards. UT had fourth-and-goal at the 2.
"I couldn't put the field-goal team out there again after that," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "I just wanted to go for it, and if we didn't get it, they would have gotten it on the 2, so that's why I went for it."
On the next play, Tyler Bray threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Da'Rick Rogers on the right sideline. Rogers was glad Dooley went for the touchdown.
"At that point, I was just thinking this is the first blocked kick that I've ever been excited for," Rogers said. "I was just like, 'Thank God he put the offense back out there, and we made a play for him.' "
Dooley had another good one-liner about Palardy's blocked field goal.
"It wasn't a block," Dooley said. "It was a kick up the center's tail field goal (attempt), but they ran into him, so we got a break. We weren't dead there yet because there was still time, but it would have been tough."
Orange Dog: Dooley will probably be bringing the orange dog back to practice this week.
Early last week, Dooley brought the ceramic-type dog to practices as a symbol of positivity during a time when the Vols were reeling from a 49-7 loss at Arkansas that left them 0-6 in the SEC.
Dooley said his players kept a positive mindset all the way through the Vanderbilt game, and he gave some of the credit to the orange dog.
"I kept telling them I saw a lot of good in them and I've seen a lot of good in them the last six weeks that a lot of people can't see, and I kept believing in them and they kept believing in themselves," Dooley said. "It's real easy to get lost in that. It's toxic all the negativity that can surround a program, and it's hard on a young man. It's hard on adults to be insulated from it, but the old orange dog did its magic. They were positive all night. We never tucked our tails and put our head down tonight, and there was a lot of opportunities to."
Johnson's Pick: UT linebacker Austin Johnson's interception of Jordan Rodgers' pass in the first quarter was his fourth of the season — the most for a Vols linebacker since Jackie Walker got five in 1970.
"We knew they liked to go to 87 (wide receiver Jordan Matthews) and they liked those crossing routes and stuff," Johnson said, "so we were just in the right place at the right time and made the play."
It was Johnson's fourth interception in five games.
Gordon's Big Play: Eric Gordon's 90-yard interception return for a touchdown in overtime was the first defensive score in overtime in college football since Sept. 9, 2005, when Ohio defensive back Dion Byrum intercepted a pass by Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh and ran it back for a TD.
Clear Starter: Freshman tight end Cameron Clear got his first career start when he lined up in a double tight end set.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Clear played in the 10 previous games and had one catch.
Simms Move: Quarterback Matt Simms probably got a few laughs with when he was announced along with the rest of the UT seniors while running out of the 'T.'
Simms made gestures for the crowd to cheer for him before shaking Dooley's hand, then rubbing the coach's well-kept hair.
Bowl Reps: Representatives from the Liberty Bowl, the Music City Bowl, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl were at Saturday's game.