Two weeks ago after losing to Missouri, there was discussion about whether Derek Mason would be back at Vanderbilt next season. After an emphatic victory last week over Ole Miss that was put to bed, but a victory tonight over Tennessee completely slams that door shut.
Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5 SEC) came back from a 21-7 first half deficit and a 10 point second half margin to defeat archrival Tennessee(8-4, 4-4 SEC) 45-34 and gain bowl eligibility of their own accord. After Alvin Kamara scored touchdowns on three of the Volunteers first four drives, it looked like Tennessee might cruise to a confortable victory, but Kyle Shurmur and Vanderbilt had other ideas.
Tennessee had been giving up rushing yards like a sieve the past few weeks but managed to overcome giving up significant ground yardage. This week, it was the Tennessee passing defense which got shredded. Shurmur led Vanderbilt with 416 passing yards, the most by a Vanderbilt quarterback since Chris Nickson in 2006, and a pair of touchdowns.
The first half of the game was a shootout with Tennessee up 31-24 at halftime and the teams combining for over 600 yards. Vanderbilt’s defense held the Tennessee offense down in the second half while their offense took advantage of sustained drives. Tennessee had 227 yards in the second half, but only managed three points. All of the Commodores (non-game ending) second half drives covered at least ten plays or 49 yards with three of the four ending in touchdowns.
Tennessee entered the game with as probably the favorite to represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. Their destination is now anyone’s guess as, theoretically at least, they could still be the highest ranked (non Alabama) SEC team and go to the Sugar Bowl, could go to the Citrus or, more likely, fall into the group of six bowls with a possible trip to Charlotte.
The Commodores are bowl eligible for the first time since James Franklin led them to the BBVA Compass (Birmingham) Bowl after the 2013 season. Shreveport and the Independence Bowl is their likely destination and with how they are playing at the end of the season will be a tough matchup for the ACC team with which they would be paired.