Vandy/Tennessee a state-ment game
By Peter Nygaard
Published Nov. 16, 2010. 129 views
By the numbers, there’s not much that separates the Tennessee Vols from the Vanderbilt Commodores. Nashville and Knoxville are a mere 158 miles apart. An additional loss by Vandy is all that separates the two in the Southeastern Conference standings. Even on the color spectrum, it would only take a slight stumble to get from gold to orange.
Suggest any of these similarities to a member of the Vanderbilt football team, though, and you might find yourself separated from a few teeth.
“Anytime you get to play Tennessee, it doesn’t matter what else happens,” said senior linebacker John Stokes. “If we beat those guys, it’s a huge win.”
Stokes was only a freshman when the Commodores blew a 24-9 lead in the fourth quarter to the Vols, capped by a Daniel Lincoln field goal with just under three minutes to play. Vanderbilt’s attempt at a potential game-winning kick with 33 seconds left shaved the paint off the outside of the upright.
For Vandy fans, that one play could easily have been a part of the current season. Misfortune has rained upon the Commodores, from a penalty flag ending the Northwestern game to injuries ending Warren Norman’s — and possibly Zac Stacy’s — seasons. Even throughout a tumultuous season, one game has remained circled on the Commodores’ schedule.
“Regardless of the current season, for either team, this is a state war,” said redshirt junior wide receiver Udom Umoh, who will miss the first half of Saturday’s game while serving a mandatory half-game suspension for his ejection from last week’s Kentucky game. “(It’s) a state championship of bragging rights for the whole year.”
Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the Vols have often emerged on the winning end. This year’s edition will be the 105th meeting between the two schools, with Tennessee leading the all-time series 72-28-5.
The rivalry began in 1892, when Vanderbilt routed UT 22-4. In the first 12 meetings, the Commodores went 11-0-1, shutting Tennessee out eight times and outscoring the Vols 265-24. Although Tennessee assumed began to assume control of the series around the time of the Great Depression, neither team would achieve that level of dominance over the other again until Tennessee’s 22-game romp, which stretched from 1983-2004.
Led by Jay Cutler, the Commodores finally snapped that streak in 2005, but Vanderbilt has yet to solve the Vols ever since. This has not lessened the Commodores’ desire to conquer their in-state rivals.
“UT week is a big week every year,” said redshirt junior defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone. “In the state of Tennessee, for Vanderbilt fans and UT fans alike, there’s a mutual hatred between the two teams, for sure. I know some of the players over there, and they’re getting up for this (game) just as much as we are.”
The Vanderbilt coaching staff does all it can to feed that hatred at every turn throughout ‘UT week.’
“Our trainers, training staff and equipment staff blares (UT fight song) ‘Rocky Top’ in the locker room all week,” Greenstone said, “so we’re definitely sick of that song by the end of the week.”
When black and gold clashes with orange and white this weekend, it’s clear that both sides will be seeing red. The Commodores just hope that when all is said and done, they’ll also see a W.