12:30 PM ET, November 19, 2005
Neyland Stadium, KNOXVILLE, TN
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Vanderbilt ended 22 years of misery and Rocky Top hit "rock bottom."
Vanderbilt (5-6, 3-5 SEC) won in Neyland Stadium for the first time since 1975, and their overall streak dating to 1982 was the second-longest between major teams in Division I-A. Notre Dame's 42-game winning streak over Navy is the longest.
"You see grown men crying and you realize how long it's been since we've won," Cutler said. "It tells us how much it means to this program."
The Volunteers (4-6, 2-5) will finish without a winning record and not be eligible for a bowl for the first time since 1988, another crushing blow in the worst season in coach Phillip Fulmer's 14-year tenure. Tennessee finishes the season next week at Kentucky.
"Before you start building back anything, you have to hit rock bottom. This is rock bottom," Fulmer said. "We had plenty of opportunities to win the game. We didn't make the plays to do that."
Tennessee's season turned into shambles after starting at No. 3 in the preseason. The Vols had a four-game losing streak, during which offensive coordinator Randy Sanders resigned.
Vanderbilt was ahead 21-7 in the second quarter, but the Vols rallied and were up 24-21 after a field goal with 8:25 remaining.
The teams traded punts several times in the final minutes, and Vanderbilt got it back with 1:40 to go and scored only a few seconds later on Bennett's catch.
Tennessee had time for another comeback and moved the ball inside the Vanderbilt 20, but Rick Clausen threw two incomplete passes and had his final one intercepted by Jared Fagan with no time left.
"It's tough. We should have stepped up and stopped them," Tennessee linebacker Jason Mitchell said. "It doesn't feel good to come in as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation and not be bowl eligible."
The Vanderbilt players swarmed onto the field and ran to celebrate in front of their band and small legion of fans. The rest of the fans clad in orange filed out of the stadium quietly.
"This is the greatest feeling I've felt on my career," said senior linebacker Moses Osemwegie, who led Vanderbilt with 16 tackles. "People asked earlier in the week how it would feel, and this is it."
Cutler ended his career at Vanderbilt making history, becoming the first Commodores QB to beat Tennessee since Whit Taylor in 1982. But even that year the Vols went to a bowl.
The Vols' defense, which has kept the team afloat all season, failed in the end.
Cutler finished 27-of-39 for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett had 14 catches for 167 yards.
"To turn the corner, you've got to believe, and I'm not saying we've turned the corner, but our guys are starting to believe," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.
The loss negated a huge game by Tennessee's Arian Foster, who ran 40 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
With Tennessee struggling on offense all season and Cutler leading Vanderbilt, many considered this to be the best shot for the Commodores to end the streak. Vanderbilt started the season 4-0 but had lost six straight coming into Saturday's game.
After Vanderbilt pushed Florida to two overtimes before losing, there was even more belief in the Commodores. But then they lost to Kentucky last week, 48-43, ending their hopes of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.
Their streak against Tennessee moved up to second earlier this month after Kansas beat Nebraska for the first time after 36 defeats.
The Vols tied it at 21 at the beginning of the fourth quarter on Foster's jump over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown. Vanderbilt couldn't move the ball on the ensuing possession, and Tennessee settled for James Wilhoit's 29-yard field goal on the next series.
Clausen went 11-of-25 for 125 yards in his final game in Knoxville.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||4-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-3|
|TD||10:53||CASSEN JACKSON-GARRISON 2 YD RUN (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 69 yards.
|TD||9:56||ARIAN FOSTER 6 YD RUN (JAMES WILHOIT II KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||0:18||MARLON WHITE 5 YD PASS FROM JAY CUTLER (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 90 yards.
|TD||8:16||MARLON WHITE 6 YD PASS FROM JAY CUTLER (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||0:42||CHRIS HANNON 5 YD PASS FROM RICK CLAUSEN (JAMES WILHOIT II KICK)|
Drive info: 16 plays, 70 yards.
|TD||14:56||ARIAN FOSTER 1 YD RUN (JAMES WILHOIT II KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 44 yards.
|FG||8:25||JAMES WILHOIT II 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 25 yards.
|TD||1:11||EARL BENNETT 5 YD PASS FROM JAY CUTLER (PATRICK JOHNSON KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 63 yards.