The Tennessee Volunteers have at seven wins for the first time since 2016.
The Vols hit the seven-win mark with their 28-10 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon. They went 4-8 and 5-7 of course over the last two seasons after back-to-back nine-win campaigns in 2015 and 2016. So, it’s probably a bit of relief that they showed some tangible progress this year to get up to seven tallies in the win column.
But it didn’t come too easily at first. An auspicious start put the Vols in a troublesome position. Jarrett Guarantano was picked off by Jaylen Mahoney on the fourth play from scrimmage, and the Commodores kicked a field goal afterwards to give themselves a 3-0 lead. Tennessee then went three and out on their next two drives, but were able to finally get on the board on their third. Eric Gray scored on a 56-yard rushing touchdown that started a huge day for him.
Gray would go on to rush for 246 yards on the night against the Commodores. He did so on just 25 carries, which meant he was averaging 9.8 yards per carry. Quite the stat line, to say the least, and then you add the three touchdowns and it’s straight up gaudy. Gray’s longest run of the night came halfway through the second quarter. After Dominick Wood-Anderson two minutes prior, Gray ran for a 94-yard score that catapulted the Vols ahead 21-3.
It effectively put the game on ice, as Vanderbilt really couldn’t put up much after that. A 22-yard reception by Kalija Lipscomb got the Commodores on the board in the fourth quarter, but Gray’s third and final TD run a few minutes later wrapped this bad boy up.
Vanderbilt’s lost dropped them down to 3-9 on the year. It’s their worst season since 2014, when they went 3-9 in Derek Mason’s first year as head coach. Mason isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and it probably should’ve been expected that they’d take a step back this year. That said, it certainly was a rough one in Nashville. But the good news is that for now, all they can hope for is a better 2020.