One play never wins or loses a game for a team, but on Saturday one play completely changed the complexion of the game. With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Vanderbilt defensive end Broderick Stewart was called for a roughing the kicker penalty on Tennessee's Britton Colquitt. The penalty came after the Vanderbilt defense had stalled a Tennessee drive at the Tennessee 44 yard line. Colquitt's punt sailed through the end zone. Instead of Vanderbilt getting the ball on their own 20 yard line, Tennessee retained possession with a first and ten on the Vanderbilt 41 yard line. The Volunteers went on to score a touchdown six plays later. The Volunteers took all the momentum on that one play.
The Commodores, much like last week, accomplished many of the goals they set for themselves in this game. They ran the ball well. Cassen Jackson-Garrison had another good game with 86 yards on 17 carries. The rushing offense as a whole racked up 149 yards on the ground. They ended the game with a 33:42 to 26:18 edge in time of possession. The Commodores just could not get the first downs when they had to in the fourth quarter when they had three straight three and outs.
Mackenzi Adams had another good day at quarterback. He was 14 for 26 with 139 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Commodores probably should have put the ball in his hands more in the fourth quarter. He has proven that he can make good decisions when his number is called. Part of the reason the Commodores were hesitant to put the ball in the air was because they were playing without Earl Bennett and Sean Walker.
The Vanderbilt defense played well until the fourth quarter on Saturday. Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge was held to just 138 yards passing through three quarters. The Commodores were not able to sack Ainge, but they had pressured him all day long. The fourth quarter was a different story. Ainge was 12-15 for 107 yards and had all day to throw.
The Commodores had their chance at the end of the game. D.J. Moore returned a kickoff to the Tennessee 42 with 2:34 left to play. Vanderbilt just needed one more big play to set up an easy game winning field goal attempt. They were only able to gain 11 yards on the drive with 9 of those yards coming on a penalty. Brian Hahnfeldt just missed a 49 yard field goal attempt.
Tennessee was able to make the plays when it counted, and the Commodores were not. Unfortunately, that has been the theme of the season for this year's Vanderbilt Commodores.