Tennessee fans can go ahead and make their New Year’s Eve plans. There won’t be a bowl game to complicate things.
Patton Robinette, a graduate of Maryville High School, scored on a 5-yard run with 16 seconds to play Saturday night, lifting Vanderbilt to a 14-10 win over the Vols on Senior Night.
A stunned Neyland Stadium crowd of 97,223 watched the Commodores (7-4, 4-4 SEC) drive 92 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead touchdown.
Tennessee (4-7, 1-6) is eliminated from bowl consideration with a season-ending game left at Kentucky.
But freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs was ineffective. He finished 11-of-19 passing for 53 yards, 37 of which came on two last-gasp completions after the Vandy touchdown.
Tennessee’s offense generated only 237 yards of offense and one touchown, a 5-yard Rajion Neal run in the second quarter.
Vandy now has a two-game winning streak against UT for the first time since the 1920s.
The 10-7 lead was immediately in jeopardy when Vandy’s Darrius Sims returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards to the UT 26.
But the defense came up with its fourth turnover of the night when DeVaughn Swafford stripped Robinette and Jacques Smith recovered the fumble at the 16.
Tennessee’s offense began to have modest success on the ground but the third quarter ended 10-7.
The Vols then squandered a chance to get some breathing room.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Dobbs scored on a 13-yard keeper. But the play was nullified by an illegal block on Alton “Pig” Howard.
Butch Jones talks after UT's 14-10 loss to Vanderbilt
Eventually, Palardy lined up a 40-yard field goal but it was a fake. His pass was intercepted by Vandy’s Paris Head and Tennessee came away empty.
Another series of Tennessee misadventures gave the Commodores a golden opportunity with a possession starting at the UT 29. The defense hung tough and Carey Spear was short on a 42-yard field goal with 7:15 left.
Turnovers dictated the first half — three by the Commodores and two by Tennessee.
Kenny Ladler intercepted Dobbs’ first pass of the night. Vandy took over at its own 39.
Eleven plays later, Jerron Seymour scored on a 3-yard run for a 7-0 Commodore lead.
Robinette was critical to Vandy’s scoring drive, twice coming off the bench to convert third downs with quarterback runs.
Brian Randolph’s interception and 41-yard return finally accomplished what Tennessee’s offense had not: creating a scoring threat.
The Vols had first down at the Vandy 12, but lost five yards in three downs. Then Palardy’s 33-yard field-goal try was partially blocked.
It was only moments, though, before the Vols’ defense got the ball back.
A.J. Johnson recovered a Brian Kimbrow fumble at the Tennessee 47. A 14-yard run by Howard finally gave the offense a spark.
Neal ran 11 yards and fumbled but teammate Jacob Carter recovered. UT had a first down at the Vandy 16.
Dobbs scrambled for 11 and Neal scored from the 5 on the first play of the second quarter to make it 7-7.
Dobbs was soon intercepted again, by Head at the UT 39. The ‘Dores were on the verge of a go-ahead score when Jordan Matthews fumbled at the 1 after a 24-yard reception.
The initial ruling was a catch to set up first-and-goal. A review overturned the call, and Dontavis’ Sapp recovery allowed the Vols to dodge a bullet.
An exchange of punts followed and even though Vandy dominated statistically, 165 yards to 86, the half ended 7-7.