Tennessee fell to Vanderbilt Saturday by a score of 42-24, to finish the season with the program’s first winless SEC record, while giving the Commodores their first and only conference win of the year.
"As a coach you always look at yourself first," said interim head coach Brady Hoke. "We needed to all do a better job, that’s first thing. I just feel bad for those kids and those guys who played their last game at Neyland."
There weren’t any post-season implications on the line for either team, but there was a whole lot of pride on the line for Tennessee. Team 121 now holds several dubious records. Aside from becoming the first Tennessee team to finish a season without a single conference win, they are also the first to lose eight-games in one year. Tennessee and Ohio State were the only FBS teams to have never had an eight-loss season.
Tennessee finished the year with a 4-8 overall record. The Vols have endured a tumultuous season filled with injuries, transfers and unprecedented defeat that resulted in the firing of Butch Jones. Interim head coach, Brady Hoke, was unable to get the team to a bowl game, and finished with an 0-2 record at the helm of the team.
Saturday's game started out as a track meet after both teams scored on their first two drives. Vols wide receiver Marquez Callaway had the play of the day with an incredible one-handed touchdown grab to cap their opening drive.
Vanderbilt extended their scoring streak to three consecutive drives, and took a 21-14 lead into halftime.
UT’s defense gave up 237 yards in the first half. Rashaan Gaulden led the Vols with five tackles and one pass breakup, while Justin Martin, Quart’e Sapp, Micah Abernathy and Daniel Bituly each had four tackles a piece. The Vols defense got worse after the break.
The second half started out slow, the only third quarter points came from an Aaron Medley field goal. The Tennessee senior kicked a career-long 49-yarder to help decrease the Vols’ deficit.
Vandy responded with three consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back Kyle Shurmur to Trent Sherfield scores to put the game away, and tacked on another just for insurance. Shurmur finished with a career-high 416 yards.
"We were terrible on defense and particularly on third downs," said Hoke. "That’s unacceptable. We needed to play better."
Vandy went 11-15 on third downs.
After two early scores, Tennessee had offensive woes as well and was held to just 238 yards of total offense and 55 yards rushing.
"I thought we'd be able to run it a little more effectively," said Hoke. I was a little bit surprised."
Now that the season is over, the attention is all on hiring the program's next head football coach.