KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jabari Small rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns, Cedric Tillman caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and Vanderbilt couldn’t keep pace with Tennessee on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, where the Volunteers won 45-21.
Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 SEC) scored 17 points in the second quarter to gain some separation and provide a gap too wide for the Commodores to close.
Vanderbilt ended its season at 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play.
Rocko Griffin ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries for the Commodores, while Mike Wright threw for 198 yards and a score and also rushed for a touchdown. Anfernee Orji had a team-high 10 tackles for Vandy.
Vanderbilt had the game’s first offensive possession Saturday and had moved to midfield after four plays, but Wright’s third pass of the afternoon was picked off by Theo Jackson and returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
That play turned out to be the only score of the period as Vandy’s defense held the Volunteers to 51 yards.
Tennessee’s offense got going in the second quarter when it put together a 12-play, 59-yard drive that drained 4:10 off the clock. It ended with a 6-yard touchdown run from Small, making it 14-0 with nine minutes left in the half.
A little less than five minutes later, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker threw a 24-yard, third-down touchdown pass to Tillman, giving the Volunteers a 21-0 lead. Chase McGrath kicked a 32-yard field goal minutes later to give Tennessee a 24-0 lead.
Vanderbilt got the ball back with 42 seconds left and drove to their own 44. With one final tick on the clock, Wright rolled right and heaved a desperation pass to the goal line, where Will Sheppard leapt and brought in the ball while falling into the end zone.
Tennessee wasted little time in the third quarter adding to its 24-7 lead. Hooker’s 46-yard touchdown strike to Tillman made it 31-7 just 33 seconds into the third quarter.
Vanderbilt responded with an eight-minute scoring drive that covered 75 yards. On the 12th play of the series, Griffin cut to his right and burst into the end zone from 13 yards out, cutting the deficit to 31-13.
But the Volunteers needed just 76 seconds to respond and got an 11-yard touchdown run by Small to go up 38-13 with 5:12 to play in the period.
Not done competing, Vanderbilt put together a 20-play drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run around the left end. Wright’s throw to Chris Pierce on the ensuing two-point conversion brought the Dores closer–at 38-21.
Jaylen Wright capped the scoring for Tennessee with a 10-yard run with 3:12 to play.
Hooker threw for 156 yards on 10 of 16 passing.
• The Commodores went 5-for-7 on fourth downs Saturday, their most fourth-down conversions since at least 1996.
• Vanderbilt’s 10:55 scoring drive at the end of the third quarter and bleeding into the fourth quarter was its longest of the season.
• Sophomore Jason Brooks started at right tackle Saturday for the first stop of his career.
• Senior kicker Joseph Bulovas finished with 14 field goals for the season, the fourth-most in a single Vanderbilt campaign.
• Tennessee now leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt 77-33-5.
• Vanderbilt’s 13 interceptions is its most since the 2018 team recorded 13. The 2013 team picked off 18 passes.
• Bulovas now has 14 made field goals this season tied for the fourth-most in single Vanderbilt season. Carey Spear made a record 20 in 2012.
• The Commodores have lost 21 consecutive SEC games and 14 straight SEC road games.
• Attendance on Saturday was announced as 77,349.