Tennessee Has Shot At Revenge Against Vanderbilt - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee Has Shot At Revenge Against Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, right, celebrates with players in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 22-6. (AP Photo) Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, right, celebrates with players in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 22-6. (AP Photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee's seniors head into their home finale Saturday hoping to keep the Volunteers' bowl hopes alive by avenging one of the most humiliating losses of their careers.

The Volunteers fell 41-18 to Vanderbilt last year for its largest margin of defeat in this annual series since 1954. Tennessee had won 28 of its last 29 games with Vanderbilt before that 2012 blowout. Tennessee fired former coach Derek Dooley the day after the game.

One year later, the Vols (4-6, 1-5 SEC) get their chance at payback.

"It was definitely one of the low points, (that) and the Kentucky game the year before," Tennessee senior defensive end Marlon Walls said. "Those things motivate you. We're definitely motivated not to let that happen again."

Revenge isn't the only motivation for Tennessee.

Tennessee needs to win both its remaining regular-season games Saturday against Vanderbilt and Nov. 30 at Kentucky to become eligible for its first bowl bid since 2010. The Vols must win out to avoid their fourth consecutive losing season, something that hasn't happened at Tennessee since 1903-06.

Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4) already is bowl eligible for a third straight year. Commodores coach James Franklin has tried to make the case Vanderbilt can be a consistent winner ever since he took over the program three years ago. Each victory helps win over a few more believers.

"It is all about perception for us," Franklin said. "We talk about (how) the kids that are in high school, they have seen Vanderbilt be successful. That is big for our program. To get people excited about our campus and excited about our program really helps in a lot of different ways."

Of course, there's also the matter of in-state bragging rights.

"It means a lot to this university and this team," Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "We want to win Tennessee, basically, be state champs. It's a big game for our tradition."

Both teams have spent the week trying to downplay this rivalry as much as possible. They continually have said they aren't treating this game differently just because it's against the in-state rival.

"We just take on our coach's philosophy, and this is any other game for us," Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said. "It being Tennessee, we know there is a buzz around the city and state that we are going to have to deal with, but for us it's just focusing on getting a win."

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Here are five things to watch Saturday when Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt.

VANDY'S TAKEAWAYS: Vanderbilt has won three of its last four games and has forced 16 turnovers during that stretch, giving the Commodores a plus-9 turnover margin this season. Tennessee has 20 takeaways, but only two of them have come during the Vols' current three-game skid. Tennessee freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs must be careful against a Vanderbilt secondary with four senior starters.

RECORD-CHASING RECEIVER: Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews has 233 career receptions, three shy of the SEC record held by former Commodore Earl Bennett (2005-07). Matthews already holds the SEC record for career yards receiving (3,358). Tennessee coach Butch Jones says Matthews "is as good as any receiver in the country."

TENNESSEE'S PASS RUSH: Tennessee produced four sacks in a 23-21 upset of South Carolina on Oct. 19, but the Vols have recorded just one sack in the three games since. They must put pressure on Carta-Samuels and try to force him into mistakes.

INJURED ASSISTANT: Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie has been on crutches this week, but Jones expects him to coach from the sidelines Saturday. Gillespie got hurt Nov. 9 while congratulating running back Rajion Neal after a touchdown in a 55-23 loss to Auburn. Gillespie has declined to discuss the specifics of his injury. "Whenever guys make good plays, you're excited for them and you just let loose," Gillespie said. "An old dog doesn't worry about what kind of car is passing his front yard. He just chases it, right? It's just in him. He just gets excited when a car passes. It's the same thing with us coaches. We get excited when a kid makes plays."

WORST VS. WORST: Vanderbilt averages just 137.4 yards rushing per game, the lowest total in the SEC. Tennessee is allowing 225.9 yards rushing per game and 5.5 yards per carry to rank last in the SEC in both categories. This game could come down to whether Vanderbilt can run the ball effectively.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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