The Vanderbilt Commodores and head coach Derek Mason (4-7, 0-7 SEC) travel to Knoxville to take on interim head coach Brady Hoke and the Tennessee Volunteers (4-7, 0-7 SEC) on Saturday. Neither team has mustered a conference win in the last 11 games.
Tennessee looks to snap a two-game losing skid going in to Saturday’s game. In Hoke’s first game as interim head coach last week, Tennessee lost a 30-10 battle with the LSU Tigers. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano led the Vols offense with one of his best games as a starter yet. Guarantano tallied his second career passing touchdown, along with 239 passing yards. This is impressive considering he was playing behind an offensive line that was missing four starts and a ton of backups.
The Tennessee rushing game was unable to get going behind the banged up offensive line, but they were able to get a playmaker back in the action. Receiver Marquez Callaway tallied his second-best game of the season with 72 yards receiving and a touchdown. However, his two dropped punt returns setup the Tigers with great field position twice in the game.
Tennessee’s rush defense struggled once again this season, as they allowed 200 yards on the ground. The Tennessee front seven was unable to get any pressure in the backfield, with only one sack and four tackles for a loss against the Tigers. The Tennessee secondary wasn’t tested at all against LSU as the Tigers completed just 11 passes for 81 yards.
The Commodores, just like the Vols, are looking to halt a two-game losing streak on Saturday. Vanderbilt is coming off a 45-17 beating from the hands of the Missouri Tigers last week. The Commodore offense had one of its worst outings this season, as quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw three interceptions and running back Ralph Webb logged just 55 rushing yards. The one bright spot in the game was tight end Jared Pinkney’s six catches for 119 receiving yards in the loss. Still, Shurmur is having a record-breaking season.
The next touchdown Shurmur throws will set a new single-season passing touchdown record at Vanderbilt. Webb is also climbing up leaderboards. He moved up to ninth all-time in rushing yards in SEC history recently, with over 4,000 rushing yards in his career.
On defense, the Commodores were shredded by the Tigers offense. Vanderbilt gave up over 200 yards and three touchdowns by way of Drew Lock and also another 100-yard game to running back Ish Witter. The problem was the Commodores inability to make any plays or get any pressure in the backfield. Vandy recorded just three tackles for a loss and just three quarterback hurries against Missouri.
Surely neither of these teams expected to be in this situation this late into the season, but it should make for a good game. The Tennessee run game will see a little more success against a struggling Vandy front seven. However, the Vols banged up offensive line will limit their ability to play like they want to. Webb and the Commodores rush attack will dominate the Tennessee front seven and open up the passing lanes for Shurmur. Vanderbilt will cruise to their fourth win over the Vols in the last six years by a score of 27-23.
Edited by Ben McKee
Photo courtesy of Sumner Gilliam