Vandy beats rival Tennessee 38-13 for 2nd bowl in 3 seasons
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Mason knows exactly what Vanderbilt’s rivalry with Tennessee means thanks to an orange mailbox he passes every day on his way to work.
Now the coach and his Commodores have a piece of history not seen in the Volunteer State in nearly a century.
Kyle Shurmur completed his first 15 passes and finished with 367 yards and three touchdowns as the Vanderbilt Commodores routed in-state rival Tennessee 38-13 Saturday to become bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons.
Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) also won its third straight over Tennessee, something the Commodores hadn’t managed since a six-game streak that ended in 1926. Mason now has beaten three different Tennessee coaches in each of the last three seasons, and Vanderbilt has beaten four Vols coaches winning five of the last seven.
“I’ve been in this rivalry game when we lost and I heard about it for 365 days , and that’s a tough deal ...,” Mason said. “I think our guys understand that, they live in this city, they understand what this rivalry game is and I think they don’t treat it any different, I just think they want it more right now. So with that being said, it’s been fun playing in this game.”
Tennessee (5-7, 2-6) sacked Shurmur three times. That didn’t stop Vanderbilt from simply dominating the Vols, outgaining them 467-242 in total offense and holding the ball for more than 43 minutes.
“This is the football team that I thought I had going into the season,” Mason said after dancing on the middle of the field in celebration.
First-year coach Jeremy Pruitt said the best team won.
“We have a long way to go,” Pruitt said. “I think our kids improved as the season went. We had a couple kids that got injured late that I don’t think helped us down the stretch. I think Vanderbilt deserved to win. They outplayed us.”
Shurmur saves his best each season for the Vols. He threw for a career-high 416 yards in 2016 and four TD passes in last season’s win. In his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium, Shurmur put on a show with his first incompletion coming with 56 seconds left in the first half.
He finished 31 of 35 completing passes to nine different receivers with TD passes of 17 yards to Jared Pinkney, 26 yards to freshman Amir Abdur-Rahman and Cody Markel. Shurmur improved his own school record in a game by completing 88.6 percent of his passes.
Wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and Khari Blasingame each ran for TDs, and Ryley Guay added a 43-yard field goal for the Commodores.
“Anytime you get a chance to beat UT, it’s just a great feeling man,” Vandy linebacker Jordan Griffin said.
Tennessee played without starting right guard Nathan Niehaus, who didn’t dress for the game, and lost left guard Jahmir Johnson late in the final seconds of the first half for targeting. Review showed Johnson hit Vanderbilt safety LaDarius Wiley in the head after an interception by Commodores safety Frank Coppet.
That interception ended Jarrett Guarantano’s school record at 167 straight passes without a pick.
Tennessee: The Vols lost two straight to end the season, outscored 88-30 in losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt when they needed only one victory to become bowl eligible in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s debut season. ... Tennessee still leads this series 75-33-5.
Vanderbilt: Ke’Shawn Vaughn became only the sixth different running back to rush for 1,000 yards with the Commodores’ eighth all-time 1,000-yard season. He ran six times for 25 yards, giving him 1,001 yards for the season. He also caught two passes for 33 yards more. But Vaughn took a hit to the head on Vandy’s first TD drive, then he got hit by a pair of Tennessee defenders on his sixth and final run. He went to the locker room with an injured left arm and shoulder.
MASON’S PLACE IN HISTORY
Mason now is just the second Vandy coach to beat Tennessee at least three times, joining Dan McGugin who led the Commodores to six straight between 1920 and 1926. This also is Vanderbilt’s largest margin of victory in this series since a 26-0 win over the Vols in 1954.
Tennessee: National signing period.
Vanderbilt: Bowl announcement with options including Liberty, Music City and Belk.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker