RECAP: Tennessee struck early, recovering a Jay Cutler fumble and scoring on its second offensive play. Cutler lost the ball when hit by blitzing safety Corey Larkins, and Parys Haralson recovered at the Vanderbilt 14-yard line. Rick Clausen lobbed to Tony Brown for eight yards, then Cedric Houston hit a gaping hole at right guard and scored untouched. James Wilhoit's PAT made it 7-0 with 12:55 left in the period.
After a short Vandy punt, Tennessee started its second possession at its own 42-yard line. Clausen hit Houston with a 13-yard swing pass and hit Jayson Swain with a 15-yarder to the Vandy 10. Houston scored on the next play, bouncing outside and again scoring untouched. Wilhoit's PAT made it 14-0 with 7:39 remaining.
Vandy rallied on its ensuing possession, marching 80 yards in 12 plays to a touchdown. The big plays were Cutler passes of 11, 12 and 14 yards to Brandon Smith, a 13-yarder to Chris Young and an 11-yard scoring strike to Marlon White. Patrick Johnson's PAT was no good, but Tennessee's lead had been trimmed to 14-6 with 2:15 left in the period.
KEY PLAY: Larkins' hit on Cutler and Haralson's recovery at the Commodore 14-yard line. That put Vandy on its heels from the get-go.
KEY PLAYER: Houston. He finished the quarter with 30 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
KEY STAT: Clausen was 5 of 7 for 48 yards, giving UT the passing threat it needed to open up the ground game a bit.
RECAP: Tennessee scored on its first two possessions of the quarter, giving it four TDs in its first four possessions of the game.
Clausen hit Tony Brown for 23 yards to the Vandy 44 and Gerald Riggs burst 31 yards moments later when VU strong safety Ronnie Swoopes overran the play. Houston scored his third touchdown of the game on the very next play, squirting five yards up the middle. Wilhoit's PAT made it 21-6 with 12:25 left in the period.
Cutler fumbled again on Vandy's next possession -- this one caused by Parys Haralson and recovered by Justin Harrell at the Vanderbilt 18-yard line. On third-and-12, Clausen hit Jayson Swain with a perfectly thrown 20-yard TD strike on a slant route, and it was 28-6 with 11:17 left to halftime.
Just when it appeared UT was going to blow the game open, the Vol defense threatened to blow the game ... period.
Cutler hit Brandon Smith with a short slant pass. Jonathan Wade missed the tackle, Robert Boulware missed a tackle and Jason Allen missed a diving tackle, enabling Smith to go 80 yards for a TD. A two-point conversion pass from Cutler to Marlon White narrowed the gap to 28-14 with 11:00 to go in the period.
A deep fade by Clausen was intercepted by Vandy's Dominique Morris at the Commodore 23-yard line, and the Dores were off to the races again. Kwane Doster bolted 10 yards to midfield, then turned the tailback duties over to Jeff Jennings (a Dandridge native not recruited by Tennessee). Jennings ran for gains of 4, 14 and 3 yards. After a questionable pass interference call against UT's Roshaun Fellows, Jennings scored from the 2-yard line. Patrick Johnson again missed the PAT kick, leaving the Commodores trailing 28-20 with 3:02 left in the half.
KEY PLAY: Smith's 80-yard TD reception. It turned an impending blowout into a ballgame again.
KEY PLAYER: Cutler and Brandon Smith (tie). Cutler completed 6 of 6 passes in the quarter for 114 yards and two TDs. The Vol secondary made Smith look like USC's Reggie Bush, allowing him to catch five balls for 124 yards and a touchdown.
KEY STAT: Tennessee's offense converted on 7 of 8 third-down plays in the first half. However, UT's defense was shredded for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the quarter by a Vandy team that hadn't scored a point on UT since the 2000 season.
RECAP: Tennessee came out smoking to open the second half, Houston rushing for gains of 13 and nine yards up the gut. A swing pass to fullback Cory Anderson gained 17 yards and a pass to freshman tight end Chris Brown gained 16 to the Commodore 18. The drive stalled at this point, however, and Wilhoit hit a 34-yard field goal to widen the lead to 31-20 with 10:36 left in the period.
Vandy drove into Tennessee territory but Cutler was intercepted by Jason Allen on a third-and-13 pass that fluttered like an injured duck. Tennessee marched 60 yards in eight plays. Houston ran 14 and 6 yards, then Riggs gained 19, 17 and 5. Clausen hit Swain on a five-yard slant pass, and it was 38-20 with 4:44 to go in the period.
KEY PLAY: Allen's interception. It set up a score that should've put the game out of reach.
KEY PLAYER: Houston. He rushed seven times for 52 yards in the period.
KEY STAT: Clausen attempted just five passes in the quarter but completed three for 38 yards and a TD.
RECAP: Continuing a drive begun late in the third quarter, Vandy faced a third-and-nine at the 23-yard line as the final period opened. Cutler gained 13 yards on a quarterback draw, then Jennings sifted tough the Vol defense on a 10-yard scoring run on the second play of the quarter. A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, but Tennessee's lead was trimmed to 38-26 with 14:45 to go.
The Vols appeared ready to put the game away on their ensuing possession, driving to the Vandy 24-yard line. A throw over the middle by Clausen was intercepted by Kevin Joyce on third-and-nine, however, and the opportunity was wasted.
Tennessee advanced to the Vandy 42-yard line on its next possession but stalled. Following a punt, Vanderbilt took over at its 13-yard line and zoomed 87 yards in seven plays. The first play of the drive was a flukish pass that skipped off the hands of Brandon Smith and was caught five yards downfield by teammate Marlon White, who rambled another 50 yards to complete a 62-yard play that carried to the UT 20-yard line. Five plays later Cutler hit Dustin Dunning with a three-yard TD pass, and the PAT made it 38-33 with 4:28 to go.
Tony Brown fielded an onside kick at the Vandy 43-yard line but the Vols couldn't generate a first down. Colquitt punted into the end zone, giving the Commodores one last chance from their 20-yard line with 2:16 to play.
Cutler was hit by Parys Haralson as he threw a first-down pass that fluttered into the waiting arms of Vol cornerback Roshaun Fellows, who was dragged down at the Vandy 23-yard line. Tennessee ran three plays to kill the clock, and the game was over.
KEY PLAY: The tipped pass to White. It was a fluke but it still counted.
KEY PLAYER: Parys Haralson. On a day when the rest of the UT defense came up small, he came up big. His hit on Cutler that resulted in Fellows' interception essentially sealed the deal.
KEY STAT: Cutler completed 22 of 33 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Vandy, which had not scored a fourth-quarter TD against an SEC foe all season, hung two on Tennessee.