Making their celebration even sweeter?
The Commodores also ensured Tennessee’s third straight losing season, putting Volunteers’ coach Derek Dooley’s job status in further jeopardy.
Andre Hal intercepted two passes and Jordan Rodgers threw for two touchdowns as Vanderbilt routed Tennessee 41-18 on Saturday night for the Commodores’ fifth straight victory, clinching their first winning record in the regular season since 1982.
Vanderbilt finished its SEC schedule with five wins — marking the first time they’ve five conference games since 1935.
In-state rival Tennessee had won 34 of the past 36 games in this series coming into this game. The Commodores (7-4, 5-3 SEC) also snapped a 14-game skid against Tennessee at home with their first win in Nashville since 1982 and the most points they’ve scored against the Vols since a 51-7 win in 1923.
Vanderbilt also had its biggest margin of victory over Tennessee since a 26-0 win in 1954 in a game the Commodores were held to a pair of field goals by Carey Spear after having first-and-goal at the Volunteers’ 5 and closer.
The Vols (4-7, 0-7) haven’t had three straight losing seasons since 1909-11. They also will miss out on a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-1978.
Vanderbilt led 13-10 at halftime and took control with a dominant third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points in a stretch where the Commodores outgained Tennessee 175-13.
Receiver Jordan Matthews scored on a 47-yard end around — his first career rushing TD — running back Wesley Tate tossed a jump pass to Kris Kentera for a 3-yard TD and Zac Stacy became Vandy’s all-time scoring leader with his 27th career TD on a 10-yard run for a 34-10 lead with 1:53 left.
Rodgers finished 13 of 26 for 245 yards, and Matthews caught seven passes for 115 yards, including a 71-yard TD.
Vanderbilt came in with a scoring defense ranked 16th in the nation, giving up just 18 points a game. The Commodores got a rare sack against Tennessee, and a unit that had four interceptions all season and none against an SEC opponent since the season opener against South Carolina got three that Vandy turned into 17 points.
This game was expected to be a shootout with Tennessee averaging 37.9 points per game and Tyler Bray threatening Peyton Manning’s single-season passing record. Bray had been nearly perfect in the last three games, throwing for 1,302 yards with 13 TDs and only one interception.
Vanderbilt outgained Tennessee 442-303 in total offense, and Bray wound up benched before returning for his worst game this season.
Bray stared at the Vanderbilt sideline after he threw his lone TD, a 14-yarder to Nashville native Zach Rogers in the second quarter. Bray was intercepted by Johnell Thomas off a tipped pass on the next drive, and Dooley benched the junior with Bray 6 of 17 for 79 yards in the half. Bray finished 11 of 29 for a season-low 103 yards passing.
Sophomore Justin Worley did little better for Tennessee after entering with only 12 pass attempts for 83 yards with an interception this season.
Hal intercepted a Worley pass intended for Cordarrelle Patterson and ran it 36 yards to the Tennessee 17. Rodgers put Vandy up 13-7 with an 11-yard TD pass to Chris Boyd, who pulled the ball in before stepping out of the back of the end zone.
No. 7 FLORIDA 23, JACKSONVILLE ST. 0
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 7 Florida used a strong defensive effort to overcome a sluggish offensive performance in a 23-0 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday.
The Gators scored a touchdown on their first possession when Mike Gillislee plowed into the end zone from seven yards out. But that was the only offensive touchdown for Florida.
The Gators (10-1) also scored on a 7-yard interception return by Jonathan Bostic early in the third quarter. Caleb Sturgis added three field goals from 21, 44 and 47 yards out to complete the scoring.
Florida’s defense allowed a 76-yard pass completion on the first play of the game, but held the Gamecocks to 176 total yards the rest of the game. Jacksonville State, an FCS program that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, completed its season with a 6-5 record.
No. 8 LSU 41, MISSISSIPPI 35
BATON ROUGE, La. — Jeremy Hill scored his third touchdown with 15 seconds left to lift No. 8 LSU to a 41-35 victory over relentless but mistake-prone Mississippi on Saturday in a classic meeting between the rivals.
The game included seven turnovers, numerous momentum swings and long touchdowns, perhaps none better than Odell Beckham Jr.’s 89-yard punt return for a score that evoked memories of Billy Cannon’s famous return against the same team, along the same sideline, for the same yardage back in 1959.
Beckaham’s return tied the game at 35, but LSU (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) still needed a pair of clutch sacks by Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards to drive Ole Miss out of routine field goal range later in the fourth quarter, setting up the winning drive.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace passed for 310 yards and two TDs and ran for two scores.
No. 12 TEXAS A&M 47,
SAM HOUSTON ST. 28
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Johnny Manziel threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 100 yards and two more scores in a bit more than a half as No. 9 Texas A&M beat Sam Houston State 47-28 Saturday.
The redshirt freshman threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Uzoma Nwachukwu on A&M’s first offensive play of the second half. The dual-threat quarterback then attempted the extra point, but it sailed wide right, ending the Heisman hopeful’s day with A&M (9-2) leading 40-0.
He broke the NCAA freshman quarterback rushing record of 1,029 set by Missouri’s Brad Smith in 2002, and the freshman record for total offense of 3,827 set in 2000 by Jared Lorenzen on A&M’s first drive.
His 4,161 yards are a school record for total offense in a season.
No. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA 24, WOFFORD 7
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kenny Miles rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown and No. 2 South Carolina pulled out a closer-than-expected 24-7 win over FCS opponent Wofford 24-7 on Saturday.
The victory gave Steve Spurrier his 64th win in eight seasons with the Gamecocks (9-2), tying him with Rex Enright for most ever in program history. But it wasn’t until a 17-point fourth quarter that Spurrier and South Carolina could rest easy in this one.
Adam Yates’ 23-yard field goal broke a 7-all tie with 11:57 to go. After the Terriers (8-3) failed on a 4th-and-1 at their 34, Connor Shaw threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ace Sanders to widen the lead.
Moments later, Wofford’s Eric Breitenstein fumbled and Akeem Auguste returned it 31 yards for a touchdown, making it 24-7.
It was the Gamecocks 11th straight win at Williams-Brice Stadium and completed their first perfect run at home (7-0) since 1987.
MISSISSPPI STATE 45, ARKANSAS 14
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Tyler Russell threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns to lead Mississippi State to a 45-14 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.
The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference).
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5) moved the ball well to open the game and led 14-7 early in the second quarter. But a series of turnovers and miscues gave life to Mississippi State on both sides of the ball.
The Bulldogs led 17-14 at the half and took control of the game for good in the third quarter. Arkansas finished with five turnovers.
LaDarius Perkins finished with 137 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns for Mississippi State. Chad Bumphis caught six passes — two for touchdowns — setting a single-season school record.
For Arkansas, Tyler Wilson finished 23 of 29 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
AUBURN 51, ALABAMA A&M 7
AUBURN, Ala. — Tre Mason threw for two touchdowns and Onterio McCalebb added two rushing scores to lead Auburn to a 51-7 win over Alabama A&M on Saturday.
Mason passed for 181 yards and McCalebb ran for 104 yards for the Tigers (3-8).
Auburn ran for a combined 341 rushing yards and finished with 512 total yards, as the Tigers picked up their third win of the season and posted their highest scoring total of the season. McCalebb finished with 142 all-purpose yards.
Mason’s two first-quarter touchdown runs, including an 86-yard score, helped give Auburn a 21-0 lead at the end of the quarter, and a 35-0 lead by halftime.
Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace finished 10-of-18 for 171 yards passing and on touchdown for the Tigers.
Deaunte Mason went 17-of-28 passing for 186 yards and threw an interception for Alabama A&M (7-4) in the losing effort.
KENTUCKY 34, SAMFORD 3
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Freshman Jalen Whitlow passed for one touchdown and ran for another, Raymond Sanders rushed for a career-high 123 yards and a TD and Kentucky blew out Samford 34-3 Saturday night to end an eight-game losing streak.
The Wildcats (2-7) scored their highest point total since beating Kent State 47-14 on Sept. 8.
Kentucky’s skid led to the Nov. 4 firing of coach Joker Phillips, who will finish the season on Saturday at Tennessee.
Whitlow completed 10 of 13 passes for 66 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Gene McCaskill.
He also rushed for a 20-yard touchdown and finished with 59 yards on seven carries.
Sanders rushed for a 14-yard touchdown that made it 24-3. Tristian Johnson followed with a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Kentucky, which scored on six of its first eight drives, outgained Samford 455-102 including 342 rushing compared to minus-2 for Samford.
MISSOURI 31, SYRACUSE 27
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Ryan Nassib threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Alec Lemon with 20 seconds to go, capping a 21-point fourth quarter as Syracuse spoiled Missouri’s home finale with a 31-27 victory on Saturday night.
Lemon had 12 receptions for 244 yards and two scores, including a 13-yard catch that tied it at 17 earlier in the fourth. After trailing 17-3 early, the Orangemen (6-5) followed up on a 45-26 upset of previously unbeaten Louisville a week earlier and became bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons.
Andrew Baggett’s 46-yard field goal with 1:52 to play had put Missouri, minus injured quarterback James Franklin, up by three.
Kendial Lawrence had 119 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown for the Tigers (5-6), who need a victory at No. 9 Texas A&M next week to become bowl eligible for the eighth straight season.