NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Dooley now has a losing record for each of his three seasons at Tennessee, and his job security couldn't be more precarious.
The coach who briefly benched quarterback Tyler Bray has no answer for the question on his future after in-state rival Vanderbilt drubbed the Volunteers 41-18 Saturday night, handing Tennessee its first loss in Nashville in this series since 1982 and worst loss since 1954.
"That's not my call," Dooley said, asked about his job security. "I don't know how to answer that."
The Vols (4-7, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) now must beat Kentucky in the season finale to at least avoid being shut out in league play.
They already have the first trio of losing seasons since 1909-11 — those under three different coaches — and will stay at home during bowl season for a second straight year. They hadn't missed two straight bowls since Johnny Majors had losing records in his first two seasons in 1977 and 1978.
All the speculation on Dooley's future as Tennessee coach didn't seem to help the Vols.
"We can't use that as an excuse," Bray said. "Vandy came out and handed it to us tonight. I mean they played well, and we just didn't."
Tennessee had beaten Vanderbilt in 34 of their past 36 games coming into Saturday. Dooley celebrated an overtime win in Knoxville a year ago boasting in the locker room how Tennessee "always beats Vandy."
"I'd like to start by saying the one thing that Vanderbilt always does is focus on being 1-0 this week" Commodores coach James Franklin said. "I know how much this means to the fans. I know how much this means to our alumni."
Tennessee's woeful season hit a new low when Bray, who had the Vols averaging 37.9 points per game while he threatened Peyton Manning's single-season passing record, was benched. Bray had been nearly perfect in the last three games, throwing for 1,302 yards with 13 TDs and only one interception.
But Bray started horribly, Vanderbilt outgained Tennessee 442-303 in total offense and Dooley benched him in the second quarter after the junior quarterback's first of two interceptions.
"I was too amped up," Bray said. "I just couldn't get anything done on offense."
Bray stared at the Vandy sideline after he threw his lone TD, a 14-yarder to Nashville native Zach Rogers in the second quarter. Bray was intercepted by Johnell Thomas on a tipped pass on the next drive, and Dooley benched the junior with Bray 6 of 17 for 79 yards in the half. Bray finished 11 of 29 for a season-low 103 yards passing.
Sophomore Justin Worley did little better for Tennessee after entering with only 12 pass attempts for 83 yards with an interception this season. He was intercepted by Andre Hal but did set up a 28-yard field goal by Michael Palardy just before halftime to pull within 13-10 of Vanderbilt.
Dooley put Bray back in for the third quarter, and the Vols went three-and-out to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Andre Hal intercepted two passes and Jordan Rodgers threw for two touchdowns as Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3) won its fifth straight in clinching its first winning record in the regular season since 1982. Vanderbilt led 13-10 at halftime and took control with a dominant third quarter, scoring 21 consecutive points in a stretch where the Commodores outgained Tennessee 175-13.
Receiver Jordan Matthews scored on a 47-yard end around — his first career rushing TD — running back Wesley Tate tossed a jump pass to Kris Kentera for a 3-yard TD and Zac Stacy became Vandy's all-time scoring leader with his 27th career TD on a 10-yard run for a 34-10 lead with 1:53 left.
Stacy celebrated briefly alone at midfield after his final home game, calling it a bittersweet moment.
"We treated this game like it was any other game," Stacy said. "It just feels a whole lot better it being Tennessee."
Rodgers finished 13 of 26 for 245 yards, and Matthews caught seven passes for 115 yards, including a 71-yard TD.
Vanderbilt came in with a scoring defense ranked 16th in the nation, giving up just 18 points a game. The Commodores got two rare sacks against Tennessee, and a unit that had four interceptions all season and none against an SEC opponent since the season opener against South Carolina got three that Vandy turned into 17 points.
"Give Vanderbilt credit," Dooley said. "They're playing really good, and we're not."
Tennessee's lone highlight was an 81-yard punt return by Patterson in the fourth quarter after the game's outcome was long decided.