Vanderbilt Report Card: Tennessee

Vanderbilt Report Card: Tennessee

Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18 on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com's D.T. Yates grades the Commodores in several critical team areas.

Passing Offense: B+
Jordan Rodgers had one of his best performances of the year, completing 13 of 26 pass attempts with two scores; Rodgers wasted no time connecting with tailback Zac Stacy on a screen pass that went 72 yards to set the 'Dores first field goal of the night. Redshirt sophomore Chris Boyd displayed excellent focus when he tipped an underthrown ball to himself and was able to get his toes in for a score that put Vandy up 13-7. In the wildcat formation, Wesley Tate threw his first career touchdown pass to a wide-open Kris Kentera for a 3-yard score.

The Vols gave Vandy great field position in the red zone for the second straight drive. Zac Stacy nearly had the 'Dores second touchdown pass by a tailback of the night but Rodgers was unable to hold on. On the next play, Kentera dropped a well-thrown Rodgers pass and the deflection was intercepted for a touchback. Vanderbilt dismantled the Vols with a sound screen game that was able to take advantage of an aggressive defensive opponent. The score could have been much worse but the coaches called off the 'Dores in the fourth quarter.

Receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd now have catches in 19 consecutive games for the 'Dores. Matthews led the team with 7 receptions for 115 yards and a score; Boyd added 3 catches for 35 yards receiving and a score.

Rushing Offense: B+
The 'Dores ground game had little success in the first half and was limited to field goals after reaching the Tennessee 5-yard twice. The second half started off in a hurry when Stacy bounced to the outside for a gain of 29-yards. On the next play, Jordan Matthews took a reverse 47 yards for a score that gave Vandy a 20-10 lead.

At the end of a nearly five minute drive in the third quarter, Stacy cut straight up the field for a score that put the 'Dores up 34-10. The senior tailback finished with 85 yards rushing and a touchdown, averaging 5 yards per rushing attempt. With a 23 point lead, Wesley Tate and Jordan Rodgers chipped away at the Tennessee defense for a pair of first downs to wind out the clock; Tate had 40 yards rushing on 13 carries.

It took a while for the Vandy rushing game to get going against the larger Tennessee front seven. Much like the second half of the season, the 'Dores halftime adjustments proved excellent and Vandy took control in the second half. Vandy racked up 194 yards rushing and two scores, averaging 4.8 yards per carry against the Vols.

Passing Defense: A
After giving up over 400 passing yards against Ole Miss, the Vandy secondary was outstanding against the Vols. The 'Dores came into the game with four interceptions and added three more against Tennessee. Trey Wilson made an excellent play to break up a Tyler Bray pass--intended for Justin Hunter--to force a turnover on downs in the first quarter. Wilson had 3 tackles, with a team high 3 passes defended; he later crushed Tennessee true freshman Alton Howard to force another punt.

A Tyler Bray pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and intercepted by senior defensive end Johnell Thomas to set up Vandy's second score of the night. True freshman defensive end Caleb Azubike tallied his fourth sack of the season; his sack was only the sixth allowed on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray all season. Bray did not have a very good first half and ended up benched for sophomore Justin Worley. Junior quarterback Andre Hal intercepted Worley and returned it 36 yards to set up Vandy's first touchdown of the night.

Outside linebacker Karl Butler made an excellent read to tackle Alton Howard for a loss of four yards. Two plays later, Hal grabbed the 'Dores third interception of the night and returned it 32 yards to the Tennessee 4-yard line to set up another score. Kyle Woestmann added his third sack of the season in the fourth quarter. The 'Dores held the vaunted Tennessee offense, that leads the conference averaging 317.6 passing yards per game, to just 154 yards passing. Vol quarterbacks were 19 for 41, with three interceptions.

Rushing Defense: C+
Although the Tennessee ground game averaged 5.8 yards per carry against the 'Dores, they were determined to try through the air. Tennessee sophomore Marlin Lane Jr. was able to cut up big chunks of two yards that led to the Vols only offensive touchdown of the night. Middle linebacker Chase Garnham led the team while matching a career-high 10 tackles including one for a loss.

Outside linebacker Karl Butler added 5 tackles, including 1½ for a loss, and a pass break up. On the Vols opening drive, Butler and defensive end Walker May stuffed Howard for a loss of six yards. Marlin Lane rushed a team high 16 times for 108 yards rushing and junior tailback Rajion Neal added 61 yards rushing on 13 carries. Javon Marshall came up and made an excellent stop on fourth-and-2 at the end of the third quarter. Marshall ended the night with 7 tackles, including 4 solo stops.

Special Teams: C
There was a scary moment on The Opening kickoff when an Andre Hal fumble was recovered by true freshman Jake Sealand. With the 'Dores pinned on their own 6-yard line, Richard Kent launched a 64-yard punt that flipped the field position and led to a Vandy score. Kent pinned the Vols inside their 20 twice and averaged 47.4 yards per punt.

Junior transfer Cordarrelle Patterson returned a punt 81-yards for a score in the fourth quarter to cut the Vandy lead to 41-18. Carey Spear was a perfect hit both of his field goal attempts in the first half from 19 and 27 yards out; he also laid out a crushing blow on Patterson near the end of the third quarter after a kickoff.

Coaching: A
Head coach James Franklin started the post-game press conference with a zinger.

"The one thing Vanderbilt always does." Franklin briefly paused and continued, "Is focus on being 1-0 this week."

Vanderbilt's defense played an excellent game and took away what the Vols do best from their first possession. The Commodore offense was able to move with ease against the worst defense in the conference.

The secondary was phenomenal with three interceptions; two of those interceptions were by junior cornerback Andre Hal, who gave defensive coordinator Bob Shoop credit for calling an excellent game.

"I made plays on the ball." Hal said, "Coach Shoop called it on Tuesday when he said I was going to be defensive player of the week, and he called it."

Franklin led the 'Dores to the largest margin of victory over Tennessee since Vandy beat Tennessee 26-0 in 1954. It also tied the school record set in 1935 of five SEC victories.

Overall: A
The crowd was excellent on senior night for the 'Dores and contributed to four Tennessee false start penalties and two offside penalties. Vanderbilt was also heavily penalized--a total of 12 times for 90 yards. Vandy started well when Stacy took the opening screen pass from Rodgers 72 yards; the 'Dores had to settle for field goals after making it to the 5-yard line twice. The Vanderbilt defense kept Tennessee quarterbacks mostly in check in the first half and limited them to only 10 offensive points.

In the second half, the 'Dores took complete control of the game with 28 unanswered points, including a 21-point third quarter. The Commodore defense left the Vols touted passing offense looking confused and ill-prepared. There was no stopping the Vandy offense until the coaches eased off the throttle in the fourth quarter.

Following the game, it was reported that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley would not return as the Vol's head coach after three losing seasons. The dismissal of Dooley marks the second SEC coach that has been fired after a loss to Vanderbilt; Kentucky coach Joker Phillips suffered the same fate after a 40-0 rout at the hands of the 'Dores earlier in November. The 'Dores travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., to face a Wake Forest team that will be fighting for bowl eligibility. The Demon Deacons have dropped their last two games, including a recent 38-0 loss to Notre Dame.

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