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Vandy wins third straight over Tennessee

Associated Press • Nov 24, 2018 at 8:47 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kyle Shurmur completed his first 15 passes and finished with 367 yards and three touchdowns for Vanderbilt, which routed in-state rival Tennessee 38-13 on Saturday to become bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons.

Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) also won its third straight over Tennessee, something the Commodores hadn’t managed since a six-game streak that ended in 1926. Coach Derek Mason has beaten three different Tennessee coaches in each of the last three seasons, and Vanderbilt has beaten four Vols coaches winning five of the last seven.

Tennessee (5-7, 2-6) sacked Shurmur three times, but the Commodores outgained the Vols 467-242 in total offense and held the ball for more than 43 minutes.

“This is the football team that I thought I had going into the season,” Mason said after dancing on the middle of the field in celebration.

First-year coach Jeremy Pruitt said the best team won.

“We have a long way to go,” Tennessee’s coach said. “I think our kids improved as the season went on. We had a couple kids that got injured late that I don’t think helped us down the stretch. I think Vanderbilt deserved to win. They outplayed us.”

Shurmur saves his best each season for the Vols. He threw for a career-high 416 yards in 2016 and four TD passes in last year’s win. In his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium, Shurmur put on a show and his first incompletion didn’t come until 56 seconds were left in the first half.

He finished 31-of-35 passing, connected with nine receivers. He threw touchdown passes of 17 yards to Jared Pinkney, 26 yards to freshman Amir Abdur-Rahman and to yards to Cody Markel. Shurmur bettered his own school record by completing 88.6 percent of his passes in the game.

Wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and Khari Blasingame ran for TDs, and Ryley Guay added a 43-yard field goal for the Commodores.

Tennessee played without starting right guard Nathan Niehaus and lost left guard Jahmir Johnson late in the final seconds of the first half for targeting. Review showed Johnson hit Vanderbilt safety LaDarius Wiley in the head after an interception by Commodores safety Frank Coppet.

That interception ended Jarrett Guarantano’s school record at 167 straight passes without a pick. Guarantano struggled to move the offense and the Vols managed 85 yards in the first half.

Ty Chandler went 75 yards untouched on the Vols’ first play of the third quarter to pull Tennessee within 17-7, and Guarantano hit Marquez Callaway with a TD pass in the fourth quarter.

MASON’S PLACE IN HISTORY

Mason became just the second Vandy coach to beat Tennessee at least three times. Dan McGugin led the Commodores to six straight wins from 1920 to 1926.

This also is Vanderbilt’s largest margin of victory against the Vols since a 26-0 win in 1954.

“This football team and this football program will not be forgotten,” Mason said. “These seniors will not be forgotten. We talked about being relevant. We’re going bowling, baby.”

TAKEAWAYS

Tennessee: The Vols lost two straight to end the season, outscored 88-30 in losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt when they needed only one victory to become bowl eligible in Pruitt’s debut season. ... Tennessee still leads this series 75-33-5.

Vanderbilt: Ke’Shawn Vaughn became only the sixth running back to rush for 1,000 yards after posting the Commodores’ eighth all-time 1,000-yard season. He ran six times for 25 yards, giving him 1,001 for the season. He also caught two passes for 33 yards. But Vaughn took a hit to the head on Vandy’s first TD drive and he got hit by a pair of Tennessee defenders on his sixth and final run. He went to the locker room with an injured left arm and shoulder.

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