KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Volunteers' bowl hopes were dashed when they fell to their instate rival Vanderbilt, 14-10, Saturday.
A pivotal fourth-and-inches play with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter, that was originally called short, led to a 5-yard touchdown run by Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette, giving the Commodores a 14-10 lead.
The Vols faced a third-and-1 situation just before Vanderbilt's scoring drive. Vols running back Rajion Neal was stuffed for a 3-yard loss, causing the Vols to punt.
"That's a situation when it's third-and-1," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "You have to be able to come up. That's what we always talk about. There's four to six plays that can mean the difference between winning and losing, and obviously that was a critical play at a critical stage in the game."
After a defensive stop, the Vols took possession on the 25-yard line with just over seven minutes left in the game. They rushed for 30 yards on four plays until Vanderbilt's defense was too much.
"They just came out with a good look," said right tackle Ja'Wuan James. "They're a good defense and we weren't able to get it."
The Vols rushed for 184 yards in the game, but that wasn't enough. They lost the opportunity to drain the clock even further. The remaining four minutes were more than enough time for the Commodores to build a scoring drive.
"It's very disappointing," James said. "We practice those reps all week. You know? The third and rushing. You're going to get that most of the season. You want to go out there and put that on [the tailback's] shoulders, instead of the defense, but we weren't able to and it was just our fault."
An impactful facemask penalty gave the Commodores a 15-yard gift when they were pinned on their own 25-yard line.
The Vols faced a similar loss to the Commodores in 2005. A 5-6 Vanderbilt led by now NFL quarterback Jay Cutler scored with just over a minute left in the game, giving them a 28-24 defeat of Tennessee (4-6). Cutler connected with current Chicago Bears teammate Earl Bennett for 5-yard touchdown pass.
The win in 2005 snapped the Vols' 22-year winning streak over the Commodores, the second longest between FBS teams. It also marked the first time Vanderbilt had won in Neyland Stadium since 1975.
Since then, the Commodores had won only one game against the Vols, 41-18 in 2012, before Saturday night.
Contact Sam Gilbreath at firstname.lastname@example.org