Saturday night, Tennessee expected to roll over the Commodores. After two good weeks on the practice field and two easy wins, the Vols according to Derek Dooley didn't have the right focus on the practice field this past week and plodded their way to a 24-10 win. Why did the Vols get to 5 wins keeping bowl hopes alive? Find out in our weekly Five Reasons Why.
1. Gerald Williams - Had it not been for Malik Jackson's roughing the passer penalty, Williams would be a lock for SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. And Williams would have knocked out the Commodores on the 70 yard interception return had it not been called back. But that was only one play in Williams' good night. The senior from south Florida had his best outing as a Vol. Williams had 8 tackles (6 solo), a sack, another tackle for loss, a quarterback pressure, and a blocked field goal. In a night where Tennessee didn't bring their best stuff and wasn't emotionally invested in the game, Williams was.
2. Janzen Jackson - The man they call the "eraser" helped erase the Commodores hopes of the upset. Jacksen cut in front of a Jared Funk pass at the goal line and returned it 43 yards to spoil a Vanderbilt scoring chance. At the end of the second quarter, Jackson had a pass break up at the goal line that held keep the 'Dores out of the endzone forcing them to kick a field goal to end the half instead of a touchdown. Jackson finished with 3 tackles including one for minus yards and he continues to bail the Vol defense out of bad positions.
3. Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt - A missed field goal. Receiver steps out of bounds, etc, etc. Vanderbilt's beat up. They are struggling and if they were going to pull off the upset they couldn't miss opportunities and they missed enough to help the Vols get the win. Then you have to question the decision to on-side kick. With two times outs and 2:33 left, head coach Robbie Caldwell elected not to kick it deep. Thanks to field position, Tennessee elected to go for it on 4th and 2 and Tauren Poole scored. Had the Vols been on their side of the field, they would have punted giving Vanderbilt a chance.
4. The first four - On Vanderbilt's first four drives they had 74 yards. On their last drive of the half they had 68 yards. The Commodores first four possessions netted three punts, and an interception. Meanwhile the Vols first four possessions they scored 2 touchdowns and they had three drives of 9 plays or longer. The start of the game was the difference in the game. After Bray's 2nd quarter interception, the Vol offense went south and Tennessee was in a fight to the finish after appearing to be on the verge of blowing the 'Dores out.
5. Big plays - Tennessee didn't have many big plays Saturday night as Vanderbilt tried to keep everything in front of them. When they could, Tennessee couldn't score. When Vanderbilt couldn't then the Vols made them play. In Tennessee's first two touchdown drives and their fourth quarter field goal drive, Bray and company had completions of 34 yards, 27 yards, 20 yards, and 23 yards. Those four plays were only 14 yards less than the Vols had the entire second half.