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November 23, 2013

Vanderbilt comes back to top Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It was never pretty, but the Vanderbilt football program made more history on Saturday as the Commodores defeated rival Tennessee 14-10 inside Neyland Stadium.

The win marked the first time in which Vanderbilt has defeated Tennessee in back-to-back seasons since 1925-1926.

Unlike last year's blowout victory in Nashville, Vanderbilt found itself down for much of the game due to some uncharacteristic turnovers, including three in the first half, and a series of unnecessary penalties.

The Commodores essentially dominated the first half, controlling the ball for over 20 minutes and holding a 165-84 yard advantage, but the game went to the break tied after the Commodores committed a pair of fumbles, including a rare turnover by All-American receiver Jordan Matthews near the Volunteers end zone.

Even with the mistakes, Tennessee never really took advantage on the scoreboard, but did take a lead with a 12-play, 55-yard drive to open the third quarter that resulted in a Michael Palardy 32-yard field goal.

After a series of ineffective drives in the third and fourth quarter, Vanderbilt got the ball with 4:16 to play. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 5-of-6 passes for 47 yards including a pair of passes over the middle to the returning Jonathan Krause, to drive VU into Tennessee territory.

The drive began to stall and on fourth and one from the Volunteers 34, Carta-Samuels climbed over his blockers for an apparent first down to continue the drive. One official spotted the ball nearly a yard back however and ruled the Commodores short, sparking a joyous reaction from the orange covered crowd. However, upon further review, it was ruled that Carta-Samuels did gain more than enough for the first down, allowing the drive and the game, to continue.

Carta-Samuels hooked up with Matthews for a 25 yard pass on the very next play to put the ball at the Volunteer 8-yard line. A few plays later, backup quarterback Patton Robinette fake a jump pass and dashed into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

Tennessee's attempt at a Hail Mary in the game's final seconds went incomplete and sealed another Commodore victory.

Vanderbilt rotated Carta-Samuels and Robinette throughout much of the game as the staff wanted to use the two in a balanced blend of run and pass.

Carta-Samuels completed 21-of-27 passes for 181 yards and an interception. The senior became just the eighth quarterback in Vanderbilt history to throw for over 2,000 yards in a season.

Robinette completed 3-of-4 passes for 14 yards, but rushed for 33 yards on eight carries.

Jordan Matthews broke former Vanderbilt great Earl Bennett's SEC record for career receptions during the course of the game, and set a new personal single-game record with 13 grabs. The senior amassed 133 yards in the victory.

The Commodores defense was stout much of the game, sacking Tennessee's Josh Dobbs on a couple of occasions and picking off the Georgia native twice as well. Vanderbilt found itself without the services of its entire starting secondary during the course of the game either due to injury or a questionable targeting ejection call on potential All-SEC safety Kenny Ladler.

The reserves stepped up however, limiting Tennessee to just 53 yards through the air on 11-of-20 pass attempts.

Vanderbilt started off the contest with a well-engineered, 11-play, 61-yard scoring drive during its second possession. Starting tailback Jerron Seymour scored from four yards out for his 13th touchdown on the year. The sophomore barely saw any more action following the drive, finishing with just five carries for nine yards.

Tennessee tied the game at 7-7 on a five-yard Raijon Neal touchdown to begin the second quarter following seven play, 53-yard drive. Vanderbilt gave the Vols key field position shortly before the drive when reserve running back Brian Kimbrow fumbled at the Commodores 41.

Both teams were largely ineffective on third down, with each going 4-of-13. Both teams also had their struggles in the red zone as VU was just 2-of-3 and Tennessee was 2-of-4.

Vanderbilt moves to 7-4 with the win and closes out its 2013 Southeastern Conference schedule at 4-4. It marks the first time since the 1948 and 1949 seasons that Vanderbilt has won at least four conference games in back-to-back seasons.

Tennessee drops to 4-7 on the season and is denied bowl eligibility for the third year in a row. It's the first time that's happened in Volunteer history since the program missed four straight bowls from 1975-1978.

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