Tennessee blew out Vanderbilt 53-28 this afternoon on the back of over 300 rushing yards for the Volunteers. The margin of victory was the largest in the series since a 39-10 Tennessee win in 2006, but was made closer by a pair of late Vanderbilt touchdowns.
Tennessee opened the scoring off a Joshua Dobbs touchdown pass after the Volunteers were set up with a short field by a Cameron Sutton punt return. Sutton could have gone for many more yards and was caught by a shoelace tackle, but the field position setup the Vols for an efficient five play, 56 yard drive capped by Dobbs' 17 yard touchdown pass to Von Pearson. Pearson and Dobbs also hooked up for a second touchdown during the third quarter.
Sutton continued his big game with an 85 yard punt return with four minutes and change remaining in the first half to give Tennessee a 27-14 lead. Vanderbilt responded with a 12 play, 78 yard drive, but a red zone interception thrown by Kyle Shurmur ended the Commodores threat for the drive and game.
Despite the 13 point halftime deficit, Vanderbilt's offense outgained Tennessee 276-222 in the first half with running back Ralph Webb picking up 115 yards on 15 carries. Included in Webb's first half yardage was a 50 yard run which set up Vanderbilt's first touchdown.
After halftime, Tennessee drove down the field and got inside the Vanderbilt two yard line, but fumbled on a fourth down attempt. The ensuing series for Vanderbilt's offense resulted in a safety which, combined with a touchdown on the Volunteers' next drive, stretched the lead to 36-14.
As the game moved on, it was Tennessee's running game that came to dominate. Tennessee gashed the Commodores for 328 yards led by Jalen Hurd with 120 yards on 19 carries. Alvin Kamara and Dobbs both had major contributions in the rushing game as well as both had over 90 yards. The 328 yards was the most gained on the ground in SEC play by Butch Jones' squad since their 2014 game at South Carolina and the most given up by Vanderbilt since 2010 at Kentucky.
The loss ends Vanderbilt's season at 4-8, but with late season wins over Missouri and Kentucky along with a close loss Florida, there will be confidence that a bowl game is a real possibility in 2016.
Tennessee will likely slot into the group of six bowls in the middle of the SEC's bowl pecking order with Charlotte or Nashville seeming like the most logical destinations. With the close losses suffered by the Volunteers towards the beginning of the season, the upcoming offseason will be on punctuated by true expectations for Tennessee entering 2016.