IT's Take: Vanderbilt

A.J. Johnson

Stay tuned to InsideTennessee for all the best coverage and analysis of Tennessee football. Scroll down to see the grades IT's staff gives the Vols.

BLEVINS

Riley Blevins' thoughts

In a game that featured more blunders than highlights, Vanderbilt was the least ugly – but only because the scoreboard said so.

It's hard to give Tennessee's defense an A when it failed to get a stop when it mattered most. The Commodores marched 92 yards in 12 plays – riding the awe of a reversed turnover-on-downs call – to punch in the go-ahead score with 16 seconds left.

Had former Maryville (Tenn.) High School standout Patton Robinette not strolled into the end zone, however, an A would be well deserved.

The defensive line played arguably its best game all season, holding Vanderbilt to 78 rushing yards.

There were flaws, there are always flaws in this game, but the secondary played solid. Corners, safeties and nickelbacks wrapped up wideouts on several quick passes in the flats.

The linebackers held their own as well. ‘Backers stayed at home during screen plays and fought off blocks to hold the Commodores to modest games.

Tennessee's defense was the lone, semi-bright spot.

The offense couldn't keep its end of the bargain. Even special teams faltered.

Tennessee's strong rushing attack was watered down by a terrible passing game.

Joshua Dobbs struggled, there's no other way to say it, more so than Nathan Peterman did in The Swamp. The freshman was 11-of-19 for 53 yards and tossed two interceptions.

Michael Palardy didn't look like himself all night, banking in a field goal, missing another and botching punts and kickoffs. On top of all the ugly, the coverage team problems resurfaced as Vanderbilt soared to a 71-yard kickoff return.

GRADES

Defense — B +

Offense — F

Special teams — F

PARKER

Danny Parker's thoughts

Ordinarily, seeing victory snatched from a team's grasp late in the game or due to an official's ruling would be completely shocking. But, covering the Tennessee football beat, you start getting used to it.

As people pack up to depart Neyland Stadium for the final time between now and next August, Orange & White supporters head home for the winter with a bitter taste in their mouths. They've seen this before in terms of the LSU and North Carolina losses in 2010. Somewhere former coach Derek Dooley is elbowing someone in the side about how similar endings set things back for him.

No bowl in 2013 is tragic for Florida. No bowl for Tennessee is a major setback in the brick-building process, especially when your in-state and league rival hammers in the final nail.

Vanderbilt did it all by winning the line of scrimmage, which was something I absolutely did not expect considering how a majority of Tennessee's defensive and offensive lines are seniors expected to take their game to another level in their Neyland Stadium finale. Just didn't happen for the Vols.

When the Vols run the football 45 times at home, they're expected to get a heck of a lot more than 184 yards. When Tennessee attempts 53 passes, it's supposed to total way more than 53 yards. Pitiful.

Before Vanderbilt commenced its final drive, I told colleague Josh Woodward that it was probably the best defensive performance against a league for this season. Just like against Georgia, the Vols couldn't get that drive-ending play while trying to protect a lead in the final quarter.

Not exactly what took place on Michael Palardy's first missed field goal (left his foot odd) and the failed fake field-goal attempt are a loss of a letter grade. The Commodores almost returned a kickoff for a touchdown as well if not for Justin Coleman. Coverage units were solid-average otherwise.

GRADES

Defense — B

Offense — C-

Special teams — C-

MOORE

Randy Moore's thoughts

Georgia Southern of the Football Championship Subdivision upset Florida on Saturday without competing a pass. Maybe Tennessee should've followed that game plan. Throwing the ball probably did more harm than good in the Vols' 14-10 loss to Vanderbilt.

Chilly temperatures and swirling winds didn't seem to affect Vandy's passers – a combined 24 of 31 for 195 yards – but it must've wreaked havoc when Tennessee put the ball in the air. Josh Dobbs completed 11 of 19 attempts for a paltry 53 yards with two interceptions. Michael Palardy's throw off a fake field goal was intercepted, as well.

Even with minimal support from the passing attack, Tennessee's ground game was productive. Rajion Neal ran for 95 yards, Marlin Lane for 53 and Dobbs 23. Tennessee averaged 4.0 yards per carry, even with Dobbs losing 27 in sacks.

The defense limited Vandy to less than 3.0 yards per carry (31 rushes, 90 yards) and only gave up one pass of more than 20 yards. Unfortunately for UT, that was a 25-yard hookup from Austyn Carta-Samuels to Jordan Mathews in the final minute that set up Vandy's game-winning touchdown.

Tennessee got very little from its special teams. Palardy made a 32-yard field goal but missed a 33-yarder. He shanked a punt, too. The Vols also allowed a 71-yard kickoff return to a Vandy team that averaged a paltry 18 yards per runback through 10 games. And, of course, the fake field goal/interception was another special-teams disaster.

Two Vandy fumbles in the red zone allowed the Vols to take a lead into the game's final minute. That may obscure the fact that the Commodores outplayed Tennessee for most of the game and probably deserved to win. The Vols, now 4-7, just aren't very good. This game just reinforced that observation.

GRADES

Defense — C

Offense — D

Special teams — F

WOODWARD
Talk about getting your heart ripped out as Tennessee thought they had it won with the stop on fourth down only to be turn over by the officials. That brought back shades of LSU. This Tennessee team didn't look like they where ready to play this game. Butch Jones and his team missed their goal of a bowl game, but the way this team performed tonight they didn't deserve one.

Offensively this was a poor effort from the entire offense, Dobbs made some poor throws, the offensive line play as poor as I have seen them play. Zero playmakers on offense. Not much to say other than they need to recruit better.

Defensively they played great the entire game, but the last drive did them in. They stopped the run for most of the game, but just let Vanderbilt hang in there. The defensive line still got zero pressure up the middle. Brian Randolph and A.J. Johnson played well other than that I didn't see anything special.

People will question whether it was the proper call for the fake field goal. It was a heads up for the Vandy defender. They should have given Palardy more than one option on the play. They left points on the field with the fake field goal and the missed field goal in the first half. Make both of those and Tennessee wins.

GRADES

Defense — D

Offense — F

Special teams — D

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