Vanderbilt snaps 22-game skid to Vols with late TD pass
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Vanderbilt ended 22 years of misery and
Rocky Top hit "rock bottom."
Earl Bennett caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler with
1:11 to go and the Commodores beat Tennessee 28-24 on Saturday.
Vanderbilt (5-6, 3-5 SEC) won in Neyland Stadium for the first
time since 1975, and their overall streak dating to 1982 was the
second-longest between major teams in Division I-A. Notre Dame's
42-game winning streak over Navy is the longest.
"You see grown men crying and you realize how long it's been
since we've won," Cutler said. "It tells us how much it means to
The Volunteers (4-6, 2-5) will finish without a winning record
and not be eligible for a bowl for the first time since 1988,
another crushing blow in the worst season in coach Phillip Fulmer's
14-year tenure. Tennessee finishes the season next week at
"Before you start building back anything, you have to hit rock
bottom. This is rock bottom," Fulmer said. "We had plenty of
opportunities to win the game. We didn't make the plays to do
Tennessee's season turned into shambles after starting at No. 3
in the preseason. The Vols had a four-game losing streak, during
which offensive coordinator Randy Sanders resigned.
Vanderbilt was ahead 21-7 in the second quarter, but the Vols
rallied and were up 24-21 after a field goal with 8:25 remaining.
The teams traded punts several times in the final minutes, and
Vanderbilt got it back with 1:40 to go and scored only a few
seconds later on Bennett's catch.
Tennessee had time for another comeback and moved the ball
inside the Vanderbilt 20, but Rick Clausen threw two incomplete
passes and had his final one intercepted by Jared Fagan with no
"It's tough. We should have stepped up and stopped them,"
Tennessee linebacker Jason Mitchell said. "It doesn't feel good to
come in as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation and not be bowl
The Vanderbilt players swarmed onto the field and ran to
celebrate in front of their band and small legion of fans. The rest
of the fans clad in orange filed out of the stadium quietly.
"This is the greatest feeling I've felt on my career," said
senior linebacker Moses Osemwegie, who led Vanderbilt with 16
tackles. "People asked earlier in the week how it would feel, and
this is it."
Cutler ended his career at Vanderbilt making history, becoming
the first Commodores QB to beat Tennessee since Whit Taylor in
1982. But even that year the Vols went to a bowl.
The Vols' defense, which has kept the team afloat all season,
failed in the end.
Cutler finished 27-of-39 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
Bennett had 14 catches for 167 yards.
"To turn the corner, you've got to believe, and I'm not saying
we've turned the corner, but our guys are starting to believe,"
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.
The loss negated a huge game by Tennessee's Arian Foster, who
ran 40 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
With Tennessee struggling on offense all season and Cutler
leading Vanderbilt, many considered this to be the best shot for
the Commodores to end the streak. Vanderbilt started the season 4-0
but had lost six straight coming into Saturday's game.
After Vanderbilt pushed Florida to two overtimes before losing,
there was even more belief in the Commodores. But then they lost to
Kentucky last week, 48-43, ending their hopes of becoming bowl
eligible for the first time since 1982.
Their streak against Tennessee moved up to second earlier this
month after Kansas beat Nebraska for the first time after 36
The Vols tied it at 21 at the beginning of the fourth quarter on
Foster's jump over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown. Vanderbilt
couldn't move the ball on the ensuing possession, and Tennessee
settled for James Wilhoit's 29-yard field goal on the next series.
Clausen went 11-of-25 for 125 yards in his final game in
2022 Southeastern Conference Standings