Be sure to check back to see what the IT staff has to say about the Tennessee game each Saturday this fall.
Randy Moore's thoughts
They say all's well that ends well, so most Tennessee fans probably are satisfied that the Vols ended Saturday night's game on the plus side of a 27-21 overtime score against Vanderbilt. Ultimately, the Big Orange was quite fortunate to win. Vanderbilt missed two field goals that would've won the game in regulation and committed four costly turnovers, including an interception that Eric Gordon returned 90 yards for a game-winning pick-six in OT.
Tauren Poole had a solid game with 107 rushing yards on 19 carries but Tennessee as a team finished with only 101 yards on 30 rushes, an average of just 3.3 per try. Tyler Bray looked like a quarterback coming off a five-game layoff, completing 16 of 33 passes for 189 yards with two interceptions. Bray's return clearly gave the Vols an emotional lift, however, that helped tremendously.
The defense got another big game from Austin Johnson, who led with 9 tackles and his fourth interception of the season. The run defense was good, limiting Vanderbilt to just 2.3 yards per rush. Vandy's Jordan Rodgers completed 17 of 31 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown but the Vols intercepted him three times.
Special teams had another tough night. Michael Palardy kicked a field goal so low that it bounced off one of his own blockers, and the Vols lost about 10 yards on each exchange of punts. Devrin Young had just one punt return for two yards and averaged just 17 yards on two kickoff returns.
Special Teams: D
Danny Parker's thoughts
With their backs against the wall in terms of hoping to extend their season and with as much negativity around the program as there has been in recent memory, the Tennessee Volunteers circled the wagons, overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and defeated in-state rival Vanderbilt in grand fashion.
It was only fitting that Nashville product Eric Gordon clinched the 27-21 overtime win with a 90-yard interception return. The momentary blown call about Gordon's knee allegedly hitting the ground brought back shades of Baton Rouge and the Music City Bowl from 2010, but the zebras got it right this time and pandemonium reigned on the Shields-Watkins Field turf.
Tennessee needed that. The Volunteers needed that. Derek Dooley needed that. Heck, reporters like myself whose careers center around this football program needed that.
Tauren Poole was teary eyed as he trotted through the "T' in the pregame. The departing senior channeled that passion into his legs and followed a horrific effort in Arkansas with a net of 107 much-need yards against the Commodores.
Glove or no glove, having No. 8 back in the huddle was a breath of fresh air for a passing game that has struggled for weeks in Tyler Bray's absence. While some of his throws kept Vandy in the game early, he still hooked up with Da'Rick Rogers for a pair of scores. More targets must step up against physical secondaries.
Holding a dynamic Vandy offense to a total of 283 yards and a game-sealing pick from Gordon showed just how bad the Big Orange defense wanted this one. Tip of the hat after essentially quitting in Fayetteville.
Both punter Matt Darr and kicker Michael Palardy continue to show inconsistency. Each leg must take a giant step forward for Tennessee to do so in 2012.
Special teams: C-
Chris Price's thoughts
Vanderbilt was a favorite for a reason. They were playing good football coming into Knoxville and Tennessee was not, but at the end of the day Vandy is Vandy.
The return of Tyler Bray without a doubt energized both the offense and the defense even when he played one of his worst games as the quarterback at Tennessee.
Sure, it's Vanderbilt, should Tennessee have to go to overtime to beat them, no, but it is what it is and you can't deny that Tennessee fought.
The third quarter was atrocious on offense and they kept fighting. They fought and persevered. Tennessee hasn't shown that kind of fight in a long time and they did tonight, even if it was against Vandy. There is plenty to criticize, but I just don't feel like doing it tonight. I will do so in my grades.
Special Teams: F
Josh Woodward's thoughts
Looks like the black cloud hanging over Derek Dooley and his football team moved down the interstate over Nashville. The Volunteers kept their bowl hopes alive with a thrilling win over a much improved Vanderbilt team.
Offensively the Vols got their man back in Tyler Bray. Bray was a little rusty, but a rusty Tyler is all they needed. Tauren Poole looked to run the ball well in his last game at Neyland Stadium. The offensive line also got the best push of the season so that helped open the holes for Tauren. Da'Rick Rogers made a spectacular touchdown catch to tie the game in the 4th quarter.
Defensively Malik Jackson is playing like a future NFL star. Jackson was all over the field against Vanderbilt recording six tackles. Austin Johnson continues to make interceptions grabbing the teaming leading 4th of the year. I thought the defense played its best game of the season considering the players that were either banged up or out with injuries.
Special Teams continues to struggle and need to improve next year in order to have a better season, both kickers a talented and just need to mature. I won't dog on them to much with all the adversity this team has had.
Special Teams: F