It started out with a bang. Then things went slowly downhill for the Vols. And by the end of the game, Tennessee had done something they never had before.
But it wasn’t a good thing.
The Vols fell to Vanderbilt 42-24 in Neyland Stadium, and Tennessee’s senior class went out in the worst way possible: They lost eight games in a season for the first time in school history.
Tennessee suffered their worst loss to Vanderbilt since 2012, and it marks the fourth time in six years that the Vols have lost to the Commodores.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s disaster in Neyland against Vanderbilt.
Quick Start, Slow Finish
The Vols got off to a solid beginning in this game, scoring on both of their first two drives of the game to go up 14-7 over Vanderbilt.
But after that start, it was all Vandy.
Tennessee piled up 148 yards of offense in the first quarter. They managed a mere 90 yards of offense after that point.
The Vols totaled one yard of offense in the second quarter, 26 yards in the third quarter, and 63 yards in the fourth quarter. And they managed just 10 points on offense after the first quarter as well.
Tennessee got outscored 35-10 after jumping out to their 14-7 lead. They got dominated in every aspect of the game after the initial quarter. It was a slow descent into madness for the Vols in this game.
More Putrid Offense
The Vols’ offense looked to be locked and loaded to start this game. But after that first quarter, it was more of the same.
Jarrett Guarantano held the ball too long, took bad sacks, and the offensive line was a mess. Guarantano did make some really good throws, but he also made some bad ones that led to big plays for Vanderbilt as well. Guarantano finished 14-for-22 for 183 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. The Vols had just 55 rushing yards on 21 carries, all but ensuring they will finish with the worst rushing attack in the SEC this season.
No matter how you slice it, Tennessee’s offense was abysmal today. Especially against a Vanderbilt defense that had been giving up big plays and a lot of yards all season to SEC foes.
Defensive Effort Wasn’t There
While Tennessee’s offense was imploding, Vanderbilt’s offense was thriving.
The Commodores had a similar start to Tennessee on offense, gaining 111 yards of offense in the first quarter. The difference was that Vanderbilt’s offense didn’t slow down, and the Vols’ defense couldn’t stop them.
Vanderbilt finished with 529 yards of offense and tied their highest point total of the season with 42 points. They averaged 7.1 yards per play and converted 11 of their 15 third downs. Kyle Shurmur threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns while Ralph Webb finished with 163 rushing yards and two scores.
And it wasn’t like this was an explosive Vandy offense on a good Vandy team. Vanderbilt was averaging less than 20 points per game in SEC play this season before this game, and the win improved their record to just 5-7.
Tennessee’s defense has been a problem all season. And that didn’t change in this one.
Worst Season in Program History
With the loss to Vanderbilt, the Vols have now suffered the worst season in program history.
Today marks the first time in Tennessee’s history that they lost eight games in a season. It also marks the first time in school history that the Vols went winless in SEC play. Tennessee has never gone without a win in conference play since joining the SEC in 1933. At least not till this year.
This season was also the first time since 1964 that the Vols lost to both Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the same season in football.
When Will the New Head Coach Start?
At this point, the only thing Vol fans have to look forward to is the hiring of Tennessee’s next head coach. And that decision can’t come soon enough.
Vol fans just had to sit through the worst season in program history. They desperately need something good to happen, and they hope the hiring of the next head coach is just the thing to give them hope for the future.