Vanderbilt's errors help Tennessee win 27-21 in OT
Every time Vanderbilt came close to taking control against Tennessee, the Commodores somehow got in their own way.
No mistake was more damaging than Jordan Rodgers' interception in overtime. Eric Gordon picked the pass off and ran 90 yards for the touchdown that gave the Volunteers a 27-21 victory on Saturday night.
''We feel we should have won that game. We stopped ourselves from doing that,'' Rodgers said. ''Props to Tennessee, they fought back when they needed to and made plays when they needed to. Their defense stepped up. Really, we are beating ourselves right now and we have to be able to fix that to win on the road in the SEC.''
The officials didn't help Vanderbilt's cause. They first ruled Gordon's knee down but overturned their call on review, ending the game.
Southeastern Conference Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said in a statement released more than two hours after the game ended that the play should not have been reviewed.
''During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player's knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal,'' Shaw said in the statement. ''The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable.''
Had the play not been reviewed, Tennessee would have faced first down at the 25-yard line and would have needed just a field goal to win the game.
Vanderbilt's last four losses have come by a total of 19 points.
The Commodores' luck seemed to change early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit Chris Boyd on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) a 21-14 lead.
Tennessee (5-6, 1-6) made it to fourth-and-goal at the 5 on the next drive, and Dooley called for a 23-yard field goal attempt. Sean Richardson appeared to block the attempt with under 7 minutes to play.
That's when Vanderbilt's fortunes appeared to reverse.
Richardson was penalized for running into kicker Michael Palardy. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin asked for a review of the play, but the officials maintained that Richardson had not touched the ball before hitting Palardy's leg.
Dooley decided to go for it on Tennessee's second chance, with the Vols now at the 2-yard line. Tyler Bray threw to Da'Rick Rogers, who stretched his right hand out to reel the ball in as Casey Hayward covered him.
The touchdown tied the game at 21 with 6:27 to play.
After the teams traded punts, Vanderbilt drove the ball with confidence that had been missing for much of the second half, picking up three first downs. The drive stalled when Prentiss Waggner intercepted a Rodgers pass at the Vols 35.
''You can't turn the ball over like we did, especially on the road,'' Franklin said. ''We didn't play very well, and that's my responsibility.''
Tennessee was unable to move the ball before the fourth-quarter clock expired.
Bray was 16 of 33 for 189 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first game back after breaking his right thumb Oct. 8 against Georgia. The cast on Bray's throwing hand was removed Nov. 7, and the quarterback returned to practice a week later.
Rogers caught 10 passes for 116 yards and the two touchdown throws from Bray. Tauren Poole had 107 yards on 19 runs and a touchdown.
Archibald Barnes grabbed both of Bray's interceptions. The first he returned 28 yards to the Vols 6, setting up Zac Stacy's 6-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter.
Barnes snagged the second pick at Vanderbilt's own end zone and ran all 100 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time an opponent has gone that far on an interception return against Tennessee since 1962.
The Commodores had chances to light up the scoreboard more in the first half but kept making mistakes.
Vandy turned the ball over on its first two possessions. Rodgers fumbled the ball on the first drive, setting up Poole's 1-yard touchdown leap with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
Austin Johnson intercepted Rodgers on the second drive at the Tennessee 29, but the Vols punted after four plays.
Ryan Fowler missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right, and a 34-yard try with 25 seconds before halftime sailed wide left.
A would be 72-yard pass play from Rodgers to Chris Boyd in the third quarter was erased when Josh Jelesky was called for clipping Mo Couch. Without the penalty, the Commodores would have been on the Vols 2.
Rodgers was 17 of 32 for 193 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Jordan Matthews had 74 yards receiving, and Boyd had 66 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Vanderbilt was favored by 1 1/2 points in the game, but Tennessee has now won 28 of the last 29 in the series.
The Commodores had a chance to become bowl eligible against Tennessee and now must beat Wake Forest next week for a chance to go bowling for just the fifth time in history.
The Vols needed a win over Vanderbilt coupled with a victory at Kentucky next week to keep from missing out on a bowl for the second time in the past four seasons.
''This is as bad as any loss. No loss is good, and it sucks it was against Tennessee,'' Barnes said. ''I wish we had got this win, but they outplayed us.''