A competitive game early on became a blowout in the second half as Tennessee ran away with a 53-28 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Here's a look at how things played out:
What the win means for Tennessee: It's the Volunteers' fifth straight win, their first such winning streak since 2007. Tennessee closes the regular season with an 8-4 overall record, also a first since 2007. At 5-3 in conference play, the Vols finish tied for second place in the SEC East; the last time Tennessee finished this high in the division was 2009. In each of Butch Jones' three seasons in Knoxville, the Vols have improved in both win total and division standing from the previous season; the progress of the program under Jones is clear.
What the loss means for Vanderbilt: It's a tough way to end the season for the Commodores, who two weeks ago still had a shot at bowl eligibility and on Saturday were competitive with the Vols into the third quarter. Consecutive 20-plus point defeats in the last two weeks leave a bad taste at the end of a season that otherwise signified incremental progress for Vanderbilt in coach Derek Mason's second year. The Commodores (4-6, 2-6 SEC) improved their win total, won their first two SEC games of the Mason era and finish tied for fourth in the SEC East, a couple steps up from where they were a year ago.
The game turned when...: Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr., intercepted Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur with 23 seconds left in the second quarter. Vanderbilt, down 27-14 at the time, was threatening to score and make it a one-score game at halftime. Instead, the Commodores came up empty-handed on the 12-play drive thanks to Kelly's interception. It thwarted some momentum and Tennessee capitalized in the third quarter by reeling off 16 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.
Player of the game: Joshua Dobbs. The Tennessee quarterback was the fuel that powered the Vols' offense, rushing for 93 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and throwing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 13-for-21 passing. Honorable mention to running back Jalen Hurd, who finished with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Stats of the game: With 331 rushing yards on Saturday, the Vols now have 2,682 rushing yards this season as a team, most since 1989 when they rushed for 2,701. Dobbs broke Jimmy Streater’s single season school record for rushing yards by a Tennessee quarterback (593) set in 1978. With 93 rushing yards on Saturday, Dobbs finished the regular season with 623 rushing yards.