KNOXVILLE — Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 28-10 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium to improve to 7-5 overall and finish 5-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
Vanderbilt finished 3-9, 1-7.
Tennessee's Eric Gray rushed for 246 yards, a program record for a true freshman as he surpassed a 232-yard performance by Jamal Lewis against Georgia in 1997. Gray ran for touchdowns covering 56, 94 — the longest run by a freshman in SEC history — and 4 yards, with that one putting the game away midway through the fourth quarter.
Gray entered the game with just 207 rushing yards and had struggled with ball security, one reason he was behind juniors Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan on the depth chart. By halftime against the Commodores, he was at 181 yards on the strength of the two long touchdown runs, having logged only 11 carries.
Vanderbilt used the interception Jarrett Guarantano threw on the game's first series to take a 3-0 lead, but the Volunteers responded with touchdowns on three consecutive drives to go up 21-3. Gray's 56-yard run on which he was never touched gave the Vols control, and that score and his 94-yarder sandwiched senior tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson's first touchdown catch of the season.
A 57-yard punt by Vanderbilt's Harrison Smith coupled with Tennessee being penalized for an illegal block put the Vols on their own 6-yard line in the second quarter, but that just gave Gray more room to work. On the first play from scrimmage, he ran through the left side of the line, cut back to the right and sprinted to the end zone.
WHAT IT MEANS
Tennessee slayed a dragon of sorts. Vanderbilt won't be mistaken for Alabama any time soon, but the Commodores had won three straight in the series, which sounds unfathomable considering the teams' histories. This win gave the Vols five straight wins to finish the regular season and six victories in their past seven games. Now they have a little time to sit back and rest before learning their bowl destination on Dec. 8.