Vanderbilt-Tennessee, As It Happened
12:15 left, first quarter: After the previous play's ugly turn of events, that long downfield completion should remove a lot of nerves from the Commodores.
11:45: Then again…
11:15: So much for that removal of nerves.
10:33: Oh, so Vanderbilt is playing Tennessee – is that what's going on here? The 2008 game in Nashville marked a moment in which the Commodores were hopeful they could win. This year, the Dores – given their new attitude under James Franklin – EXPECTED to win. Yet, it's as though the curse of the Big Orange is still firmly planted inside the cranial regions of every VU player.
9:02: In six minutes, a week's worth of confidence has been obliterated. Time to build it back… immediately. Or else.
7:01: No. No. Is tonight going to be 2008 all over again, only in Knoxville instead?
5:27: Vanderbilt needed the Vols to short-circuit their own drive with that bad snap. They'll likely need Tennessee to donate a few other gifts as well before the night's done.
4:00: Jordan Rodgers is a deer in the headlights of Neyland Stadium (yet, that tipped pass should have been caught for a big Vanderbilt gain).
0:07: CLANG! Good grief. Vandy needs to go for this, however. Will Franklin do so?
0:00: YES. YES HE WILL. And the Commodores get the first down. That's how coaching matters. Timid coaches don't trust their offense to make big plays in season-defining games. Decisions shape the attitude in the locker room and on the sideline. That's a play which should give Vanderbilt wings heading into the second quarter.
End of First Quarter Score: Tennessee 7, Vanderbilt 0. .
12:59 left, second quarter: Nothing. All that work for nothing… and a missed kick to (errantly) boot. Well, Vanderbilt received a lot of love before this game, but few (if any) pundits were expecting a Commodore romp. Adversity exists in abundance right now for VU, and the boys in white road jerseys will simply have to play through these storms.
12:51: The Knoxville night's storm clouds just dissipated for the moment.
12:48: Nope, clear skies right now. That was fast. Just like that, new ballgame and new belief for the ballhawking boys in white.
11:12: Um, a pass rush would be nice right now, front four. Tyler Bray can't have all day; he'll work off his rust and find a rhythm.
7:48: So, it would seem that Mr. Bray has indeed found a groove. Vanderbilt's secondary suddenly doesn't seem all that imposing anymore. Tennessee cleanly outplayed VU on that sequence. The Dores didn't slip up or squander any opportunities; it feels a little better to lose because of the other team's excellence and not your own mistakes. With that having been said, it still doesn't feel good to get smoked by the Sons of Smokey. Say, some storm clouds have rolled in…
5:03: Jordan Rodgers has endured far too many Football Follies moments in this game. He's bumping into running backs, stumbling on the turf, and not playing with a great deal of composure. He needs to settle down when the second half arrives (if not sooner).
4:10: PASS RUSH! Third down inside the Tennessee 6 is a great time to bring the heat. No interception after the play by Tim Fugger, but the Dores will still have a short field – getting a three-and-out inside an opponent's red zone is almost always an excellent result.
2:55: I like the decision to keep the passing game horizontal on this drive. Rodgers needs to make simple throws and other plays that don't demand too much work. Smart coaching.
2:06: Yet, while the passing game has been simplified on this drive, the move to the option has given the Dores a new look, catching the Vols off guard. The power-run formations have been replaced, and Tennessee is clearly scrambling to adjust.
1:13: Vandy goes back to the power run and gets stuffed. Stick with what works.
0:30: It's a cliché, but it has to be said anyway: Rodgers has to make that throw. (What else can you say?)
0:25: Vanderbilt will have to go for it on fourth down for the rest of this game inside the Tennessee 40… much like Mark Richt did for Georgia against Florida on Oct. 29.
Halftime Score: Tennessee 14, Vanderbilt 7. It should be 14-13. We'll see if Vanderbilt can overcome that pair of missed kicks.
13:32 left, third quarter: As the razor-sharp Brian Griese (who has become a really good analyst) pointed out, Bray needed to throw that ball earlier. By throwing later, the play became exponentially more difficult. The Dores won't complain.
12:39: Clipping? On a pass play? Well, it wasn't a bad call. James Franklin raged not at the officials, but at position coaches. Josh Jelesky's penalty just cost VU a tying touchdown. The nightmare continues, and it will persist until the Dores change their tune.
8:29: This is slip-sliding away, isn't it?
5:29: NINETY-NINE YARDS AND A HALF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is this real? No, wait – penalty? AGAIN??? On Tennessee. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that flag suggested an illegal block. Moreover, it WAS an illegal block… on the team that was not making an interception return for a touchdown. However, as great as this turnaround is for the Dores, they're only tied, and there are 20 minutes of ball left to be played. No let-ups.
4:12: That's not quite a simple catch for T.J. Greenstone, but it's a catch that needs to be made.
3:56: That said, if you fail to catch a pick, get a sack on the next play. ONIONS, Mr. Greenstone!
1:10: That was a very, very disappointing series.
1:00: Given the lack of a kicking game and the struggles of the offense, that's probably one of the two times out of 374 that a punt from an opponent's 33 is acceptable. (The sport of football still dies, though, whenever a team punts from an opponent's 33 when the outcome has not yet been decided.)
0:32: Clearly, James Franklin did make the right decision (but the sport of football is still dead).
0:00: The sport of football took an unholy pounding in the final five minutes of this quarter Heavens to Betsy. A mistake, not a great play, will most likely decide this ugly affair.
End of third quarter: Vanderbilt 14, Tennessee 14..
14:17 left, fourth quarter: Jordan Rodgers picks a great time to make a money throw.
12:21: Rodgers got BELTED on that play. He stood in the pocket, absorbed the monster hit… and delivered a perfect ball. ONIONS! Advantage, Dores.
9:39: This is the portion of the program where a dominant Vanderbilt defense has a choice: Either rise up and write a new narrative, or be complacent and allow the old, familiar narrative to repeat itself. The intensity on defense is sorely and sadly lacking, given the stakes and the situation.
6:43: The intensity has certainly picked up. Now, fourth and goal for the Vols. Crunch time, part one (more installments to come).
6:32: Wait – Derek Dooley chose to kick the field goal? And he gets bailed out like THAT? That is just the latest awful rule to (dis-)grace the college football rulebook. You can rough or run into the kicker even when the kick is blocked? That is SUCH a pointless rule.
6:15: So, this is going to be the newest, most improbable, you-can't-make-it-up way for Vanderbilt to lose not just a tough game, but the Tennessee game, right?
2:47: Vandy fans are nervous wrecks incapable of coherent thought or charitable sentiments at the moment. Cursing, ranting, railing, lamenting, pounding fists, shaking heads – all that and then some at the moment.
2:09: The outlook is decidedly better, but it's still not optimistic. Tennessee owns the field-position edge right now.
2:02: The 17? Vandy fans will take it. Anything beyond the 15 is pretty reasonable on that punt.
1:49: Go ahead, Vols. Play soft on the edges. Play the prevent defense.
1:18: That is a MAN'S CATCH by Jordan Matthews.
0:48: For a quarterback who stumbled and wobbled so frequently through the first three quarters, Rodgers has REALLY steadied the ship in the fourth.
0:20: And then Rodgers turns into a pumpkin. Of course. Of course. (Of course.)
First drive, overtime: Franklin, if you have a special play in the bag, uncork it here.
First drive, overtime: That was a special play… for the Vols. If this play can be reviewed, it's all over.
First drive, overtime: They're reviewing the play. The game is over. There are no words. None.
Final score: Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21 (OT)..
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