Vols: My Most Memorable Vanderbilt Game


The Vols took on Vanderbilt at Dudley Field in Nashville on this day in 1992. It was Johnny Majors last game as Tennessee head coach.

For some reason I remember this game differently from what I am researching. I guess I am old. Maybe I just want to remember it they way I have been telling it for all of these years. Both are probably true.

I remember it as a tight game. That much is true. The Vols won this one 29-25.  I remember taking a client of mine, Cliff Moody who was a big Vanderbilt fan, to the game that November day.

I remember thinking Tennessee was going to lose this game, and I kept getting smaller and smaller in the Vanderbilt stadium seat. Cliff kept looking at me smiling saying “Don’t worry, you are going to win”. I didn’t see how we could.

Gerry Dinardo led the Commodores. He had a team that was 4-6 and had the best rushing attack in the SEC. They also had a quarterback who was decent. His name was Marcus Wilson. On this particular day, he looked like Peyton Manning.

Wilson passed for a 248 yards on 10 of 14 attempts. A Vanderbilt receiver by the name of Clarence Sevillian caught 6 passes on the day for a staggering 222 yards. He had 3 touchdowns on the day. The best I remember I was sitting in the stands watching a very young DeRon Jenkins get beat time after time as Sevillian ran wide open all day. It was hard to watch.

But the Vols had a quarterback of their own. Heath Shuler was the Vol signal caller. Shuler was one of the best to ever put on the orange and white. Many think of his days with the Redskins and think of him as a bust. He remains one of my favorites of all time.

Many forget Shuler finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1993. He was a distant second to Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward, but being the second best player in the country is not bad. The Vols would have another quarterback finish second in the worst vote ever in just about 4 years.

One of the best throws I have ever seen was thrown by Shuler in this game. With time expiring in the first quarter, Shuler threw a bullet to a crossing Craig Faulkner for a 57 yard touchdown. That pass was one of the hardest and most accurate throws I have ever seen of a Vols quarterback. It was a thing of beauty. For whatever reason, I remember it as the game winner. It was actually thrown in the first quarter. Again, just getting old I guess.

The Vols stymied the run game of Vandy on this day. They held the Commodores to just 95 yards on the day, but the Wilson to Sevillian passes kept the Commodores in the game.

Tennessee has a great backfield today with Hurd and Kamara. Think about 1992. Charlie Garner, Aaron Hayden, and Little Man Stewart shared carries. Stewart had two touchdown runs in this game.

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As I remember it Tennessee was down and out with just a few minutes left in the game. I can still see Cliff saying “I’m telling you, you will win the game”. The score was 19-14 in favor of Vanderbilt, and the Commodores had the ball and were driving.

Dinardo began running the ball at Tennessee between the tackles and the Vols were reeling. Tennessee was all but done. The way I remember it which could be completely wrong, was that Dinardo decided to try to flank Tennessee by getting to the edge on three straight plays.

That was playing right into the Vols hands. The Vols were too fast on the edge and the Vols stopped the Dores. Vanderbilt only needed a first down to end the game. However Shuler drove the Vols 57 yards in 3 plays as Little Man Stewart scored from one yard out to take 20-19 lead with 1:49 left in the game.

The Dores Wilson promptly fumbled the ball right back to Tennessee after the kickoff. Charlie Garner took the very next play to the end zone over on West End, and the Vols went up 29-19. Game over.

Not so fast. Vanderbilt came right back as Wilson hooked up with Sevillian for his third touchdown to move within 29-25. The two point conversion was no good, and Tennessee escaped the Commodores as the subsequent onside kick was recovered by the Vols.

Cliff still smiled coming out of the stadium as if nothing happened.  “I told you you would win”. He never lost faith that his Commodores would lose, and he took it so well. I will never forget this. I would have died a thousand deaths that day if I had been a Vandy fan.

That is just one memorable game from this rivalry. I still to this day get more nervous playing Vanderbilt than any team we face. I can not stand to lose to this team. Their fan base is delusional. They will talk about a win over Tennessee as if it is commonplace. They have beaten Tennessee 3 times in my lifetime.

After the second Vandy win in a row a few years back, I heard a Vandy fan say the Tennessee game was not really a rivalry because Vanderbilt was so dominant in the recent series. Seriously? Wonder why I don’t like Vandy? Tennessee has to win today in Knoxville. For my sanity if nothing else please.