John Adams: Unconventional game, unconventional ending

John Adams

Game recap: Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21

The game couldn't just end with a touchdown. That would have been too simple for a game as unconventional as this one and for a team that has struggled so mightily to achieve any semblance of success.

First came Eric Gordon's 90-yard interception return for a touchdown in overtime. Then came the official review.

No, his knee hadn't touched when he made the catch. The touchdown counted.

So did the celebration. UT's sigh of relief was almost as loud.

Beating Vanderbilt might be business as usual for Tennessee. But there was nothing usual about UT's methods in a 27-21 victory.

The most bizarre play of the evening had nothing to do with the delayed confirmation of Gordon's game-winning interception. Instead, it was the setup to UT's game-tying, fourth-quarter touchdown.

The score was preceded by a blocked field goal. And the team that blocked it was penalized for its efforts.

Michael Palardy kicked an embarrassingly low liner into the mass of bodies at the line of scrimmage just before Vanderbilt's Sean Richardson dove into him. Since Richardson didn't touch the ball, he was guilty of running into the kicker.

The penalty advanced the ball to the Vanderbilt 2-yard line, after which quarterback Tyler Bray completed a fourth-down touchdown pass to Da'Rick Rogers. Palardy then managed to kick the ball over the goal post to tie the game.

The touchdown was surprising for a couple of reasons: the Vols had gone five consecutive games without scoring in the second half; with all the mistakes Vanderbilt made in the first half, who would have thought a UT comeback would have been necessary?

The Commodores committed enough errors to lose two games in the first half.

Placekicker Ryan Fowler missed field goals of 34 and 44 yards. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers set up UT's first touchdown with a fumble and also threw an interception. He would have thrown a second first-half interception if either one of two Vols had been able to hold the ball.

One mishap led to another in this game, which ended with both teams needing a victory in their final regular-season games Saturday to qualify for a bowl.

Rodgers, who has given Vanderbilt's offense a huge boost in the second half of the season, threw two more interceptions after halftime. Bray threw two interceptions to Vanderbilt linebacker Archibald Barnes, who returned one 100 yards for a touchdown. His other interception set up Vanderbilt's first score.

Never mind the damage from those two errant passes. Saturday's game reminded you how much the Vols need Bray, who had been out six weeks after breaking the thumb on his right hand.

Even on an off night, Bray makes plays. He also raises the spirits and confidence of a team that so often suffers from a lack of playmakers.

On UT's second touchdown drive, UT fans could recall what their offense looked like before Bray was injured.

The drive ended on a 17-yard touchdown throw from Bray to Rogers. The same combination accounted for three other completions and 43 more yards during the Vols' best drive of the game.

Bray's return wasn't the only cause for celebration. Last season — Derek Dooley's first as UT's coach — the Vols lost two agonizingly close games to LSU and North Carolina under strange, last-second circumstances.

Finally, a strange, close game had gone their way. And no one appreciated it more than Dooley.

"We got the breaks tonight," Dooley said. "It was the first time I feel like we had good luck on our side."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 45

kantanuuv writes:

Congratulations on a stunning upset of the mighty Commodores. CVDjr finally has his signature win.

CVDjr is guaranteed to be back next year. All the other SEC coaches are thankful for that.

John_10065 writes:

Somehow Adams can make a win sound like a loss.

BigOrangeSlim writes:

in response to kantanuuv:

Congratulations on a stunning upset of the mighty Commodores. CVDjr finally has his signature win.

CVDjr is guaranteed to be back next year. All the other SEC coaches are thankful for that.

Your an idiot!

spacehistorian writes:

Tennessee is a different team when we have Bray out on the field. I feel good about going into Lexington to secure that 6th victory to get us to a bowl game. We need the extra work to prepare for next year. We will get our injured players back and hopefully add some talented Freshmen to have a season Big Orange Nation has hungered for over the past several years. Great win tonight for our team. GBO!!!

budd#207344 writes:

I am extremely thankful for this win. That said this was Vandy. Our O line is still not playing the way it needs to and the play calling was atrocious. The players won this one based on their hard work and perseverance. Congrats guys. Still need in the trenches coaching.

WaVol writes:

Tonight I can sleep. I'm thankful for that. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't great, but it wasn't a loss. Doormat is much better this year, and we are struggling. I'm just glad to win. Its hard to fall to Bama or Florida and sometimes the scores are embarrassing, but losing to Vandy or UK would be humiliating. Today, we don't have to be humiliated. Be thankful Vol fans. GBO!

DannyVol writes:

Another string of insults thinly disguised as a lousy column. govolsextra indeed.

BeVOLy writes:

It felt so good to be in the stands with everyone staying even after we got the final call. We really needed this VOL Nation.

VolzsFan writes:

The whistle blew. The ref blew it.

twin942 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Cobb_Webb_Attack writes:

Why the negativity? Let the orange chips fall where they may.

volfanlostnbama writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

SummittsCourt writes:

Hey JA, how does crow taste? You can't even write a decent artilce after a Vols win.

Stop trying and go work at walmart.

dvhill100 writes:

You could clearly see the ref blowing the whistle in the replay just as you could clearly see the knee was not down. Yes, we caught a break, but it went for us instead of against us, so I'll live with the ref's double mistake. I do feel we would have won if we had gotten the ball back and had to go for it.

Liberal_Vol writes:

Hey OP, this was a great win for Tennessee! One of the best wins ever (right up there with the National Championship and I ain't kidding).

Congratulations CDD.

volfanlostnbama writes:

in response to volfanlostnbama:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

here is the best I've been able to find of Franklin and Hinshaw

http://yfrog.com/kjgwp1j Heinstadt separating Franklin and Hinshaw after the Vandy loss at TN

rusty_shackleford writes:

in response to John_10065:

Somehow Adams can make a win sound like a loss.

adams did call for a Peabody win. So sorry UT broke his sad, bitter heart.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

"The score was preceded by a blocked field goal. And the team that blocked it was penalized for its efforts"
I usually try to defend comments as honest not negative but let's face it, You really are a .........

djgovols writes:

BigOrangeSlim writes:
in response to kantanuuv:

Congratulations on a stunning upset of the mighty Commodores. CVDjr finally has his signature win.

CVDjr is guaranteed to be back next year. All the other SEC coaches are thankful for that.

Your an idiot!

+1 !!

Yes he is an idiot, its easy to say these things when we aren't wining "in the toughest conference in the universe! But do a little research and you will see even Saban's staff said "the one coach that scares the hell out of us is Dooley" Hmmmmmm wonder why? BECAUSE HE COACHED FOR THE GUY !!! impatient non-fans go buy Vandy season tickets if its so bad in Knoxville.....I agree 100% Idiot....

Bubba_Knows writes:

I was right. The play should have been blown dead by rule because of the ref's mistakenly blowing his whistle (not reviewable)...... Bubba does know!

"Southeastern Conference Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said in a statement released more than two hours after the game ended that the play should not have been reviewed."

"During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player's knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal," Shaw said in the statement. "The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable."

Had the play not been reviewed, Tennessee would have faced first down at the 25-yard line and would have needed just a field goal to win the game.

SummittsCourt writes:

For Vandy fans, you had plenty of opportunities to win the game outright, but you "Vandied it up" and lost again (28 of 29).

Neither team looked like world beaters, but in a game of mistakes, penalties, turnovers and chaos, UT made fewer of each and won the game.

SummittsCourt writes:

Congrats to our Seniors on Senior night. This has been a rough four years, but you hung in there and made it happen.

wallingdad writes:

in response to rusty_shackleford:

adams did call for a Peabody win. So sorry UT broke his sad, bitter heart.

Paul finebaum predicted a Vandy win also.

VOODOOley-2011 (Inactive) writes:

Hey Adams, thanks for really backing the VOLS this last week prior to the game. You're a pierce.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to kantanuuv:

Congratulations on a stunning upset of the mighty Commodores. CVDjr finally has his signature win.

CVDjr is guaranteed to be back next year. All the other SEC coaches are thankful for that.

sorry about your disappointment by the Vols winning

volbike writes:

Bubba, "Just a Field Goal" from anywhere is no small requirement for this team.

TheFuj writes:

Bottom line was that it was a win. Feel great because I forgot what a win felt like in the SEC.
Still some big concerns from last night.
Why were we even trying a FG late in the 4th quarter?
Punter is terrible. I thought he was suppose to be a highly ranked punter out of HS. Did we make him worse? Vandy avg. 51 yds a punt minus their nice QB punt which was a great call by Vandy's coach. TN avg 38 yards per punt!!
Could have called timeout with 13 seconds left in regulation. Could have got another play downfield. Clocks stops if first down and set up for a FG. Dooley calls timeout with 2 seconds and takes a knee??
Still some real coaching concern.

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to twin942:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Its pretty obvious that Jesus isn't on the UT payroll.

tennisvol writes:

Heard on the radio that Coach Franklin from Vandy used some profanity toward some UT students when leaving the field after the game. Also, he refused to shake the hand of the UT QB coach and they had some words. Another UT coach had to step between them. Nice class from the Vandy coach.

snakeplissken writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

sorry about your disappointment by the Vols winning

I hardly think any Vol fan was disappointed in our team winning. They're Vandy - we expected to win.

To put the game in perspective however, we beat a 5-5 Vanderbilt (who hadn't beat anyone of significance), in overtime, with a bad call by the officials, for our first and only SEC win this season, and we have to beat a worse Kentucky team to be eligible for a third-tier bowl game.

ajwlfw#574737 writes:

Franklin is a hothead and at some point that will get him in trouble. The other coaches in the conference will not respect him and will coach against him accordingly- put it to Vanderbilt to shut him up. I noticed that Vanderbilt's players like to run their mouths a lot- a reflection of their coach maybe.

movol77 writes:

in response to Clarkrm0706:

"The score was preceded by a blocked field goal. And the team that blocked it was penalized for its efforts"
I usually try to defend comments as honest not negative but let's face it, You really are a .........

Great point!

"And the team that blocked it was penalized for its EFFORTS." EFFORTS? EFFORTS? EFFORTS?

Undeniably slanted!!!

VolunteerLifer writes:

Unconventional prediction. We'll never let you live this one down, Adams.

wagee12 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

I am extremely thankful for this win. That said this was Vandy. Our O line is still not playing the way it needs to and the play calling was atrocious. The players won this one based on their hard work and perseverance. Congrats guys. Still need in the trenches coaching.

Why is it that some seems compelled to search for negatives even after a win like this? The play calling was not bad, one call maybe on the pass attempt on third and goal, but other than that, Chaney called a great game. And why go back to the offensive line again. Those guys played a fine game against a veteran, tough Vandy front seven on defense. Really, nit pick, nit pick, nit pick.. Do you reckon UT will ever play a perfect game with no mistakes? Frankly, contant harping gets old after awhile.

footballfan34 writes:

Pants Dooley gets the win. Vandy still Vandy. GBO.

arkyvol writes:

wonder where we'll end up in the polls.

baldingalum writes:

Food for thought Vol Nation...

I watch Florida play post Brantley's injury and all I hear and read about is how critical Brantley is to Florida's success. And, as a result of his injury, one should expect Florida to lose a lot. BTW, if Florida loses to Florida State this Saturday - which I believe they will - they will also have 6 losses.

Conversely, when Tennessee loses I hear virtually nothing about Bray's injury. I also hear very little about Justin Hunter's injury. So, to the aforementioned Florida, tell me what they would do without Brantley and Rainey? Because Bray and Hunter are every bit as talented, actually I believe both Bray and Hunter are more so.

And finally, the Hunter loss was truly devastating. He was our best WR, might have gone on to be one of the best in college football this years. Rogers has played very well in his absence, but having two great wideouts spreads the field, opens up all kinds of passing lanes and helps an anemic running game.

If we didn't have those two big injuries we'd have at least 8 wins this season. With 8 wins everyone would be talking about how we made the turn this year.

It will happen next year.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

in response to John_10065:

Somehow Adams can make a win sound like a loss.

Yeah he does that alot...never has nothing positive to say about Tennessee.I wish KNS would relieve him of his duties.He's a poor excuse of a reporter

VOLliven2it writes:

Poor little Johnny(Adams)doesn't get to lick his chops and say "I told you so" on Vandy beating the VOLs. They didn't do it. And for me, hearing that sports babe on ESPNU go on and on about how marvelous Aaron Rodgers' bro. was and all he brought to the Commodores was sickening. That was maginified when he threw an int. and she remarked how still confident he and the team were. And for the first time in a game I saw Vandy players in Vols players' faces almost taunting. Now that is real swagger for a team which almost beat some really good teams this year. I guess you get that with ALLWORLD coach Franklin. Finally, I am glad to see Tauren Poole recall his final Neyland Game as a 100 yarder. The O-line was noticably better but he made some great cuts and bounces outside. WAY TO GO MAN! Now it's skin them Kats time.

VOLliven2it writes:

Is it just me or does that Commodore mascot look a little like Terry Bradshaw?

OrangeJuiced writes:

in response to untimed_vols_ghost:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thank you, untimed. When did being smug become hip behavior for a fan? We see it all the time here. It's a shame.
I'm a Vols fan. Sure, I was optimistically hoping for 7-5 this year, but that was before I knew that Janzen Jackson and Herman Lathers were not going to play at all this season, or that we would lose Justin Hunter on the 4th play of the Florida game, and then Tyler Bray in the Georgia game. So I'll take 7-6 (assuming a win over Kentucky and some kind of Bowl that doesn't end like North Carolina last year.) Tyler's back!

My guess is that not many SEC coaches are going to look forward to facing Tyler Bray throwing to Da'Rick Rogers and Mychal Rivera AND Justin Hunter.
And my hunch is we'll see a positive transformation in Pilardy and Dahr. Remember David Leaverton?
Yeah, I know we've lowered the bar quite a bit when a win over Vanderbilt is something to shout about, but I don't care. It was a sweet win. We didn't let George Cafego down, and I was shoutin'!

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

The whistle blew. The ref blew it.

Doesn't matter.

If a tree falls in the forest and I'm not there to hear it, it doesn't make a sound as far as I'm concerned.

Think positive thoughts.

Go Vols.

jmaples54 writes:

any victory is a good one; i enjoy the close ones better than the blowouts. john adams-- on behalf of non-extreme vol fans, you're a good sportswriter. as you have said many times, you're not paid to be a "homer." best schedule idea for 14-team SEC: 3-5 (do away with east west, 3 permanent yearly rivals, play each of ten every other year. pass it on.

rockypop writes:

The fundamental difference between Tennessee and Vanderbilt football will always be expectations. Vandy fans perceive a six-win season, and trip to ANY bowl, to be a sign of success. At Tennessee, a six-win season, under any circumstance, is considered by fans to be a disaster and a ticket to the firing of the coaching staff.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to tennisvol:

Heard on the radio that Coach Franklin from Vandy used some profanity toward some UT students when leaving the field after the game. Also, he refused to shake the hand of the UT QB coach and they had some words. Another UT coach had to step between them. Nice class from the Vandy coach.

B@$t@rd child of Kiffin and Orgeron.

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