NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee was more relieved than
jubilant after the Vols clinched the Southeastern Conference's
Eastern Division title Saturday with their 22nd straight win over
"We dodged a bullet," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.
Cedric Houston had touchdown runs of 6, 11 and 5 yards and
Gerald Riggs Jr. added 149 yards rushing as the (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) Vols
beat the Commodores 38-33 after jumping out to a 28-6 lead.
Tennessee (8-2, 6-1) plays Kentucky next week and then will play
(No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) Auburn in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 4. It
will be Tennessee's fourth trip to the title game since 1997.
"Auburn will likely lick their chops after watching this
tape," Fulmer said. "All I know is that we're Eastern Division
champions. Not one person picked us (in the preseason)."
Tennessee has dominated Vandy since 1982. Only Notre Dame's 41
straight wins over Navy and Nebraska's 36 straight over Kansas are
longer streaks over one opponent.
Jay Cutler was 22-of-33 for 314 yards and three touchdowns for
Vanderbilt (2-9, 1-7), which finished with the same record as last
year despite returning 21 starters and entering the season with
"There were a lot of 'what ifs' this season," Vanderbilt coach
Bobby Johnson said.
The Commodores lost four games in which they led in the fourth
quarter, and lost five games by a total of 15 points. Vanderbilt is
8-38 in the last four seasons, with just two conference wins.
Tennessee opened the second half with 10 consecutive points, on
a field goal and Rick Clausen's second TD toss to Jason Swain, to
take a 38-20 lead in the third quarter.
But Vandy, which came into the game being outscored 78-7 this
season in the fourth quarter, pulled within 38-26 on Jeff Jennings'
second scoring run.
Then the Commodores got lucky.
Brandon Smith tipped a pass from Cutler and Marlon White made an
off-balance catch for a 62-yard completion. White, who finished
with seven catches for 118 yards, caught another pass four plays
later on fourth-and-6 that set up Dustin Dunning's diving 3-yard TD
reception with 4:30 left.
Vanderbilt had one final chance after forcing Tennessee to punt,
but Cutler was hit throwing a pass that was picked off by Roshaun
Fellows with 2:07 to go and Tennessee ran out the clock.
"On that last play, I was playing low and preparing to tackle
and just got lucky when the ball fell into my hands," Fellows
Tennessee took a 28-6 lead on Houston's three TD runs and a
21-yard TD pass from Clausen to Swain. Clausen, starting because of
injuries to freshmen Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge, was 19-of-30
for 189 yards with two touchdowns in his first start for Tennessee.
But Smith, who finished with eight catches for 160 yards,
sparked Vanderbilt. Cutler threw a slant to Smith, who shook
cornerback Jonathan Wade on his way to an 80-yard touchdown, and
Jennings added a 2-yard TD after a Tennessee turnover to make it
28-20 at the half.
"We have to get better playing with a lead," Tennessee
defensive end Parys Haralson said. "We have to learn how to