Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette (4) is brought down by Tennessee defensive lineman Corey Miller (80) and Tennessee defensive lineman Jacques Smith (55) in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Now that a bowl bid is out of reach, Tennessee heads its final game seeking to avoid becoming the first team in school history to have eight losses.
Tennessee (4-7, 1-6 SEC) never has lost more than seven games in a season. The Volunteers must win at Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) in their season finale to keep that streak alive.
The Vols dropped their fourth straight game and fell out of bowl contention Saturday with an agonizing 14-10 loss to Vanderbilt. That guaranteed the Vols their fourth consecutive losing season, which hasn't happened at Tennessee since 1903-06.
"We have one more game left as a football teamand a football program to get better," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "They are resilient and will come back, but I feel for them because of all the things they have been through."
Vanderbilt's game-winning drive continued after Tennessee's fourth-down stop of Austyn Carta-Samuels in the final minute was overturned on replay, giving the Commodores a first down at Tennessee's 33. Patton Robinette scored on a 5-yard run with 16 seconds left.
That continued Tennessee's recent tradition of heartbreaking and bizarre losses.
Tennessee fell 16-14 at LSU in 2010 after having too many men on the field on a last-second play, giving the Tigers one last chance to score the winning touchdown. The Vols were celebrating an apparent victory over North Carolina in the 2010 Music City Bowl when officials ruled T.J. Yateshad spiked the ball with one second left, allowing the Tar Heels to score a tying field goal before winning 30-27 in overtime. They fell to Missouri 51-48 in four overtimes last year after yielding a 25-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-12 conversion with 47 seconds left in regulation.
This year, Tennessee lost 34-31 to Georgia in overtime as Alton "Pig" Howard's apparent go-ahead touchdown was ruled a fumble and touchback after replays showed he lost control of the ball before crossing the goal line.
Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel Hood called those tough losses the "burden" of a senior class that has experienced plenty of frustration.
"That's a burden that we'll shoulder because we know that with Coach Jones, we've finally got the right coach here," Hood said. "Every person in that locker room believes that 100 percent. So we'll carry that burden so that in the future (Tennessee) can win championships."
The Vols' inability to win Saturday showed they still have a long way to go.
When receiver Marquez North injured his ankle in the first quarter, it shut down Tennessee's passing attack. Tennessee had 53 yards passing, its lowest total since a 2008 victory over Vanderbilt. A block-in-the-back penalty nullified a fourth-quarter touchdown that would have extended Tennessee's lead to 17-7. A fake of a 39-yard field-goal attempt resulted in an interception.
Rajion Neal was stuffed on a third-and-1 play as Tennessee tried draining the clock in the fourth quarter. After playing exceptional defense all night, Tennessee allowed a game-winning 92-yard touchdown drive that included a face-mask penalty.
Senior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said he shook everyone's hand in a quiet Tennessee locker room after the game and reminded his teammates the season isn't over. James said he didn't want "everybody moping around all week."
The Vols will finish the season without backup tight end A.J. Branisel. Jones said Sunday on his television show that Branisel "blew his knee out" in practice and will undergo surgery.
A victory over Kentucky can't get Tennessee to a bowl, but it could support the Vols' assertion that this rebuilding project is moving forward.
"I believe the culture is finally starting to change," Hood said. "We are finally getting the right guys. We are finally are working the way a Tennessee program is supposed to work. We are starting to build the right foundation. Sometimes good things you have to wait for. Right now is kind of one of those processes."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Students in the Academy of Energy and Power at Maplewood are busy getting ready for next week's Project Expo and had the opportunity to show it off some of their projects to Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper.