Nashville, Tenn. - This rivalry game just meant more. The 113th meeting between Tennessee and Vanderbilt came with a bowl bid on the line, and it was the Commodores’ veterans that would not be denied in a 31-13 win on Senior Day at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Fourth year starting quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed his first 15 passes as Vandy jumped to a 17-0 first half lead, and the Dores never let up in beating the youthful Vols for the third straight season.
Even with star tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn exiting the game after just six carries due to an injury, Shurmur hit stud tight end Jared Pinkney for a 17-yard touchdown to cap an 11 play, 84 yard drive to open the scoring. Kalija Lipscomb then capped a five minute drive with a two yard TD on a jet sweep.
Vandy outgained Tennessee 467-242 while holding the ball for more than 43 minutes. If you take away Ty Chandler’s 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half, the Vols managed just 167 yards of offense.
By the time Amir Abdur-Rahman made a spectacular diving catch for a 26-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter the game was all but over.
The waning minutes were a sweet celebration for a Vandy team that lost close calls to Notre Dame, Florida, Kentucky and Missouri earlier in the season, but learned to finish when it mattered most. Needing to win its final two games to become bowl eligible, Vandy did so with an OT thriller against Ole Miss and Saturday’s no doubter that gave them their longest winning streak over Tennessee since 1926.
No one played a bigger part than Shurmur, who built on his hot start by throwing for a season-high 367 yards and three touchdowns. The final one, a two-yard toss to Cody Markel, provided the exclamation point with 2:33 to go.
Shurmur extended his record for career TD passes by a Vandy quarterback to 63 and should set the school’s career passing yardage mark in the bowl game, cementing his legacy as one of the great players to ever don the black and gold.
Meanwhile, Tennessee ends a promising first season under Jeremy Pruitt with disappointment. After an exhilarating upset of Kentucky two weeks ago, the Vols limped to the finish with consecutive blowout losses and will miss a bowl game, and the valuable extra practices that come with it, for a second straight year.
The practice time and the reward of a bowl trip belongs to Vanderbilt for the second time in three years. And Saturday they looked like a team eager to play more football with one another as they grabbed bragging rights on their in-state rivals once again.