Kyle Shurmur completed his first 15 passes and finished with 367 yards and three touchdowns as the Vanderbilt Commodores routed in-state rival Tennessee 38-13 Saturday to become bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons.
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 coach Jeremy Pruitt’s debut season.
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 now 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. That didn’t stop Vanderbilt from simply dominating the Vols, outgaining them 467-242 in total offense and holding the ball for more than 43 minutes.
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 season’s win. In his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium, Shurmur put on a show with his first incompletion coming with 56 seconds left in the first half. He finished 31 of 35 completing passes to nine different receivers with TD passes of 17 yards to Jared Pinkney, 26 yards to freshman Amir Abdur-Rahman and Cody Markel. Wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and Khari Blasingame each ran for TDs, and Ryley Guay added a 43-yard field goal for the Commodores.
Tennessee played without starting right guard Nathan Niehaus, who didn’t dress for the game, 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. While Shurmur was picking the Tennessee defense apart, Guarantano struggled to move the offense as 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.
“This football team and this football program will not be forgotten,” coach Derek Mason said. “These seniors will not be forgotten. We talked about being relevant. We’re going bowling, baby.”