Game recap: Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21
Tennessee Stat Book
Tyler Bray showed a little rust at times, including a few wild throws and a pair of interceptions that led to points for Vanderbilt. But the sophomore didn't seem to have any problems getting in sync with Da'Rick Rogers, with the two combining for two critical touchdowns.
Running backs B+
The aggressive version of Tauren Poole returned for the Vols, giving them a more consistent rushing attack even if there still weren't many big plays. The Pistol formation was a success, and Poole took advantage of the adjustment by rushing for 107 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown.
Wide receivers/Tight ends B
Rogers was clearly energized by having Bray throwing to him again, and he was a handful for Vanderbilt's solid secondary with 10 catches. The sophomore made a pair of athletic plays on his touchdown grabs and again went over the 100-yard mark — though no other wide receiver had more than one catch.
Offensive line B+
There was perhaps more push for the rushing game than the Vols have had this season, and Poole largely capitalized on it. Bray felt a little pressure from the Vanderbilt defense, but he was sacked only once in what might have been the best outing up front all year.
Defensive line B
Defensive tackles Maurice Couch and Malik Jackson both had good games, as the Vols largely bottled up Vanderbilt's two-headed monster rushing attack of quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy. The Vols brought down Rodgers only twice, but they provided plenty of pressure to force the quarterback into a number of poor decisions.
Senior Austin Johnson went out the right way in his final home game, leading the Vols with nine tackles, a sack and his team-high fourth interception of the year. Freshmen Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson combined for 4.5 tackles for loss as the unit played a big part in limiting Vanderbilt's rushing attack to 2.5 yards per carry.
It wasn't a perfect effort by any means, as the Vols gave up a number of third-down conversions through the air and surrendered a handful of deep passes. But the unit, banged up from a number of injuries, stepped up big at the end, as Prentiss Waggner's interception sent the game into overtime and Eric Gordon's 90-yard interception return for a touchdown provided the dramatic finish.
Special teams D
The only thing that went right for this unit was that the Vols didn't surrender another SportsCenter highlight return for a touchdown. Matt Darr's punts were consistently short, Devrin Young wasn't able to do much of anything returning kicks and punts, and Michael Palardy's field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter, while a blessing in disguise, was embarrassingly low.
The quarterback couldn't take a snap, so the Vols installed the Pistol formation — it worked. Given a second chance after a blocked field goal to go for it on fourth-and-goal on the 2-yard line, Derek Dooley's roll of the dice paid off. After an two months in the league, he finally had a reason to smile.
The Vols had to work a little extra to finally get in the win column in the SEC, but that might have just made the celebration even sweeter. And unlike the other times they've celebrated a victory prematurely, this time they actually got to do it again with the result going their way.