NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s been a long, long time since Vanderbilt has been able to beat Tennessee four seasons in a row.
But the Commodores have a chance to repeat some old history at 3 p.m. CT Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not since 1920-23 has Vandy claimed four straight victories against their bitter rivals to the East.
“I mean that would be awesome, but at the of the day we really just got to continue to stay on our process, take it one day at a time and make sure we’re very intentional with our actions this week in practice,” Vandy senior linebacker Caleb Peart said. “We can’t really get too caught up with the whole – just specifically that game. We got to keep grinding.”
Vanderbilt (3-8, 1-6 SEC) broke a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 38-0 win over a different east Tennessee team – East Tennessee State. The Dores racked up 418 yards of total offense while holding ETSU to 105 yards.
They also saw running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn rush for 139 yards – one yard off a season-high performance – and tight end Jared Pinkney grab his first two touchdown receptions of the year. Getting those playmakers going again was imperative going into the season finale.
“Very important that the team is coming off a big win,” Vaughn said of his day against ETSU. “I feel like this is something we needed going into a rivalry game. We’re going to keep preparing.”
The Commodores had Monday off before getting back to work Tuesday. They’ll be getting ready for a Tennessee team (6-5, 4-3 SEC) that has won four in a row since Oct. 19 when it sat at 2-5.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s team is bowl eligible for the first time since 2016 – also the last time it was able to beat Vanderbilt.
“They’re well-coached, they have momentum. We needed to be able to have our own momentum headed into this ballgame,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said. “It’s one ballgame, one fight, one 60-minute ballgame.
“Tennessee is going to bring their ‘A’ game. What we’ve got to be able to do is match intensity, production and everything else in this ballgame. We’re going to get ready to head to Knoxville after Thanksgiving and play one heckuva ballgame. That’s what we expect to see. We know they’ll be ready and we’ll be ready as well.”
Vandy has averaged 41.6 points in its last three wins against the Volunteers while Tennessee has scored 34, 24 and 13, respectively, in the last three meetings. The Commodores, who have struggled on the offensive end for the most part this season, will have to devise a crafty gameplan to put up similar numbers from past meetings against the Volunteers.
“You got to open up your playbook. You got to throw everything that you have into it. That’s what this week will be about,” Mason said. “It’ll be about finding ways and opportunities, creative ways to get these guys the ball. There’s enough guys offensively, for us, to hopefully find creative opportunities to make sure those guys touch it.”
While Vandy won’t be going to the postseason this year, it can go into the offseason on a two-game winning streak if it’s able to conquer Rocky Top once more. The Dores have won 5 of 7 against Tennessee but haven’t won two straight in Knoxville since 1935-37.
“At the end of the day it’s still a rivalry game and we understand what that is. We’re not going to make that bigger than what it is,” Peart said. “Obviously it’s a big game, but we still have to be focused on ourselves and we still just have to continue to get better.”
• Vanderbilt has won nine straight games against programs from the state of Tennessee.
• In 23 career games with Vanderbilt, Vaughn has 2,259 rushing yards – the fifth-most in Vandy history. He needs 375 yards against Tennessee to finish third all-time behind Zac Stacy (3,143) and Ralph Webb (4,173).
• Vaughn is averaging 6.47 yards per carry during his Vanderbilt career after 349 rushes. That’s the highest mark in the history of Vanderbilt football for backs with at least 349 rushing attempts (Stacy averaged 5.4 on 581 carries).
• Vaughn is third on the program’s career rushing touchdowns all-time list with 21. Stacy (30) is second and Webb (32) is first.
• Vaughn is fifth on Vanderbilt’s all-time career rushing yards list. He needs 231 yards against Tennessee to pass Carl Woods (2,490) for fourth.
• Vaughn has nine career game with at least 100 rushing yards.
• Vaughn ranks 29th nationally with 1,1015 rushing yards and 34th with 92.3 rushing yards per game.
• Lipscomb goes into his final game with 193 career receptions (fourth all-time) and 21 career receiving touchdowns (tied for second all-time).
• Pinkney goes into his final game with 14 career receiving touchdowns (tied for eighth all-time).
• Vanderbilt’s longest stretch of wins against Tennessee came from 1901-1913 when the Commodores reeled off nine in a row.