Vandy whips Tennessee 42-24 to cap Vols’ dismal season
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb ended his career as the sixth-leading rusher in Southeastern Conference history.
He may prefer to be known as the guy who helped change the direction of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee rivalry.
Webb ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns in his final college game Saturday as Vanderbilt whipped Tennessee 42-24 to beat the Volunteers for the fourth time in the last six years. Vanderbilt had gone 1-28 against Tennessee from 1983-2011.
“It means everything for our seniors,” Webb said. “We’d worked so hard. The season didn’t go as planned, but we knew we had one more to get and we wanted to get this one, especially here in Knoxville. It’s so special.”
Kyle Shurmur added four touchdown passes as Vanderbilt (5-7, 1-7 SEC) continued its most successful run in this series since winning six straight over Tennessee from 1920-26.
“Keep them quiet,” Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks said of Tennessee. “We own the state for another 364 days.”
No. 17 Memphis actually has a greater claim on state bragging rights this year as the lone Tennessee team heading to a bowl. Even so, Vanderbilt certainly enjoyed putting the finishing touches on one of the most disappointing seasons in the Vols’ storied history.
After opening the year in the Top 25, Tennessee (4-8, 0-8) posted its first eight-loss season in school history and fired coach Butch Jones along the way. The Vols also went winless in SEC competition for the first time since the league’s formation in 1933.
“Things are just going to change,” Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said. “The culture’s going to change. We’re going to be working our tails off every single day. We’re just going to have to get things done, no matter who likes it. If they don’t like it, they can leave. That’s just how things are going to be from now on.”
Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith added that the Vols will “remember this moment” and other lowlights from this season to make sure those types of disappointments don’t happen again.
“We’re going to come back better,” Smith said. “I promise that.”
Vanderbilt also had a disappointing year as it fell below .500 after a 3-0 start, but the Commodores made the most of their final opportunity for an SEC victory.
Shurmur went 20 of 31 for 283 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Trent Sherfield and one each to Kalija Lipscomb and C.J. Duncan. Vanderbilt led 21-17 through three quarters and put the game away by scoring 21 straight points to open the final period.
Webb had touchdown runs of 2 and 20 yards to increase his career total to 32, breaking Vanderbilt’s career record. Zac Stacy ran for 30 career touchdowns at Vanderbilt from 2009-12. Webb’s big night enabled him to climb from ninth to sixth on the SEC’s career rushing list.
“This football team finished the way we wanted to finish,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said.
Guarantano went 14 of 22 for 183 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Tennessee. Brandon Johnson had six catches for 107 yards.
Vanderbilt: Shurmur saves his best performances for the Commodores’ biggest rival. He threw for 416 yards last year in a 45-34 victory over Tennessee that likely cost the Vols a Sugar Bowl berth. His four touchdown passes Saturday gave him 26 this year, breaking the school single-season record of 22 set by Whit Taylor in 1982.
Tennessee: The Vols’ porous run defense was gashed again as Vanderbilt ran for 246 yards and gained 5.7 yards per carry. The Commodores entered the night averaging just 3.4 yards per rush. Tennessee’s offense scored touchdowns on its first two drives but finished with just 24 points against a Vanderbilt defense that had allowed at least 34 points in each of its first seven SEC games.
The Vols ran 21 times for just 55 yards against a Vanderbilt defense that had been allowing 5.1 yards per carry.
Webb closes his Vanderbilt career with 4,173 yards rushing to rank sixth on the SEC’s all-time list. He started the day in ninth place but overtook Florida’s Errict Rhett (4,163 yards from 1989-93), LSU’s Dalton Hilliard (4,050, 1982-85) and LSU’s Charles Alexander (4,035, 1975-78) with his 163-yard performance.
Shurmur is the son of Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Since the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and weren’t playing this weekend, Pat Shurmur was able to make the trip to Knoxville to see his son play Saturday.
“It was cool to have him here,” Kyle Shurmur said.
Vanderbilt carries plenty of momentum into next season after beating Tennessee for a second straight time.
Tennessee chooses its next coach.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee