The 25-yard catch carried from the Vols' 33-yard line to the 8 with around 40 seconds remaining. The Commodores scored two plays later, turning a 10-7 deficit into a dramatic 14-10 victory.
It was the first time since the 1920s that Vandy has beaten Tennessee in successive years, making Matthews' game-changing grab arguably the biggest play in one of the Commodores' biggest wins ever.
The Vols thought they had the game clinched moments earlier, when an official ruled they had stopped Vanderbilt short on a fourth-and-one play at Tennessee's 35-yard line. The ball was re-spotted upon video review, however, giving the Commodores a fresh set of downs. Everyone in Neyland Stadium knew Vandy would look for Matthews at this point but Tennessee still couldn't stop him.
"It was a ground-and-pound game a lot," Matthews said afterward. "A lot of our production came off running the ball and screen plays but we had to throw it deep on that last drive. Tennessee played a little bit of cloud coverage. They were trying (to create) a collision on the line with safety help over the top, so Austyn (Carta-Samuels) knew he couldn't put it too deep. He had to put it right in the honey hole.
"That just shows the accuracy he has a quarterback. He was able to fit it in there, and I was able to go make the play. That set us up for the score, so I was happy to be a part of it."
Ironically, the kill shot was delivered by backup quarterback Patton Robinette, who grew up in Maryville – just 15 miles from the UT campus – but was not recruited by the Vols. His five-yard run on a second-and-goal keeper capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive and provided the go-ahead score.
Matthews said it best: "For Patton to be able to go in and score like that – that last touchdown so close to his hometown – that's a storybook ending for him."
Robinette conceded that scoring the winning TD was "huge," then added: "But not for the reason of being from Maryville. It was huge for us as a team to come into Neyland, which is an intense environment, and come out with a win. That was huge for us. The fact I'm from Maryville just made it even sweeter."
Robinette produced a last-minute TD a week earlier at Kentucky by faking a run, then throwing a jump pass into the end zone. This time he faked the jump pass, freezing Tennessee's defense, then rambled into the end zone untouched.
Robinette's TD run represented an atonement of sorts. He cost Vandy a probable score by fumbling at the Vol 16-yard line earlier in the game.
"I wish I could have the fumble back," he said. "That's something that I'm pretty mad at myself about but we ended up finding a way to win."
Commodore head man James Franklin said earlier this week that Tennessee versus Vanderbilt isn't a rivalry because Vandy hasn't won often enough to qualify as a rival. Robinette agreed, even though the Dores have claimed the last two meetings.
"I still think we have a long way to go to make it a rivalry, to be quite honest," he said. "They were flashing the all-time (series) record on the scoreboard, and we're a long way off. But we're making headway and we're keeping it competitive."
Although the game featured the usual assortment of jawing, personal fouls and unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties, the visitors expressed respect for the Vol program.
"Tennessee's a great team," Matthews said. "All respect to Tennessee. Those guys fought hard. We fought hard, too. The guys just stayed resilient. We hung with it."
Franklin had kind words for the Big Orange, too.
"I have tremendous respect for the University of Tennessee … tremendous respect for their coaches," he said. "Coach Jones does a great job. Their fans … this is an impressive place. This is what we're trying to create at Vanderbilt … a home-field advantage.
"All the respect to the University of Tennessee. I hope they stay healthy and finish out the year well."