5 Observations: Vols Defeat Vanderbilt 53-28

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    Jalen Hurd-1-2

    The Vols ran all over Vanderbilt en route to a 53-28 drubbing to end the 2015 regular season. Tennessee had their way in all three phases of the game, and it was a dominating effort by the Vols to close out the season.

    Tennessee out-gained Vanderbilt 523-411 in total yards, didn’t allow a sack, never turned the ball over, and had only five negative rushing plays all while sacking Vanderbilt’s quarterback four times (once for a safety) and forcing a Commodore turnover. Cam Sutton also returned another punt for a touchdown, giving the Vols six special teams scores on the year.

    The win sent the 2015 Vols out on a high note to end the regular season, and here are some observations from the blowout victory:

    Just Like Last Year: When Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 24-17 last year, they benefited from a Cam Sutton punt return touchdown and a Todd Kelly Jr. interception. In this year’s match-up, the Vols got similar plays from the exact same players.

    Cam Sutton ripped off an 85-yard punt return for a score in the second quarter to give the Vols a 27-14 lead. It was his second punt return touchdown of the season, and it was his second such score against the Commodores in his career. Then on Vanderbilt’s last offensive possession of the first half, Todd Kelly Jr. picked off a Kyle Shurmer pass in the flat to end a scoring threat by the Commodores.

    Those plays, coupled with just an overall dominating effort in all three phases by the Vols, helped push Tennessee to its 53-28 victory.

    Dobbs, Sutton Set Single-Season Marks: Quarterback Josh Dobbs now holds a single-season record for the Vols, and it has nothing to do with passing. Dobbs passed Jimmy Streater for the most rushing yards in a single season by a quarterback with his 93-yard rushing performance, giving him 623 on the season. Streater had 593 in the 1978 season.

    Dobbs has been a weapon on the ground ever since he took the field for the Vols as a freshman against Alabama, and now he has a Tennessee record to his name.

    Cam Sutton also has a season record to his name, and it’s not for his defense surprisingly. Sutton ripped off an 85-yard punt return for a score against Vanderbilt, and with that he surpassed Bobby Majors’ school record of 457 punt return yards in a season when he did so back in 1969. Sutton now has 467 yards on the year and two scores with a bowl game remaining.

    Running Back-Flavored: One of head coach Butch Jones’s favorite phrases to use after a game is “the flavor of the game.” Well this game was very much flavored with Tennessee’s running backs.

    Jalen Hurd ripped off a 48-yard run and scored on a 14-yard run in the third quarter, but Kamara was the story for most of the game before that point. Kamara finished with 99 yards on 16 carries and added 52 yards on 2 catches. Dobbs had a phenomenal performance on the ground, but the three-headed rushing attack was spearheaded by the Vols’ two running backs. Hurd and Kamara finished with a combined 219 rushing yards and 87 receiving yards against Vanderbilt.

    Vols Can Run: Tennessee had a historic season on the ground this year, running for 2,682 yards, surpassing the total from the 1998 season when the Vols totaled 2,536. This team now ranks 4th all-time in school history when it comes to rushing yards in a single season.

    Vanderbilt had allowed just 126.1 rushing yards a game on the season coming into their match-up against the Vols, but Tennessee ran for 331 total yards against the Commodore’s defense.

    The Vols had three players finish the regular season with over 600 rushing yards. Jalen Hurd (1,158), Kamara (645), and Dobbs (623) have been hard to stop by opposing defenses. And Tennessee has played some good defenses. Coming into tonight’s game, the Vols had faced 4 of the top 10 overall defenses in the country (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri) in terms of total yards allowed. Yet the Vols still managed to put up one of the best offensive performances in school history.

    Just Like Old Times: The win over Vanderbilt felt more akin to the beat downs the Vols put on the Commodores in the 1990’s rather than the closer games of the last decade. The 53 points the Vols scored on Vanderbilt were the most a Tennessee team had put up on Vanderbilt since a 65-0 rout in 1994. It marked the 4th time Tennessee has put up 50 or more points on the Commodores.

    While this season may not have reached the heights it could have, this Vols squad went a long way to reestablishing themselves in the SEC East title conversation. The Vols beat teams they historically dominated (Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt), and ended losing streaks to Georgia and Missouri.

    Tennessee finished second in the SEC East with the win over Vanderbilt, trailing only Florida, the SEC East winners. The eight wins were the most by the Vols in the regular season since they won 9 in 2007 (10 including the bowl game), and the Vols finished the regular season with a 5-game winning streak, their longest since 2007 as well.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.