This week the Tennessee Vols roll into Vanderbilt Stadium for the 111th meeting between the intrastate universities. The series began in 1892 with a 12-0 Commodore victory in Knoxville. The schools have played every year since 1925 except for two seasons (1943-44) during World War II. These former Vanderbilt players and coach were asked about their series memories.
Dick Philpot (1949-51)
In 1949, we played in Knoxville and it was a cold, rainy day. There were many terrible calls against Vanderbilt, especially a tackle before the ball got to Lee Nalley (on our 22-yard line), who clearly had his hand up for a fair catch. We were leading 20-19 and he fumbled. The Vols scored and won the game, 26-20. The call was so bad that Coach (Bill) Edwards rushed onto the field and the players followed him. The result for me was being hit on my helmet by a policeman’s billy stick. That was the hardest lick I got that day. We had two touchdowns called back for holding.
George McGugin (1960-61)
We beat Tennessee in Knoxville 14-0 in 1959. I was red-shirted that year and did not play in the game but was there. Tom Moore, who later starred for the Green Bay Packers and was a terrific player, was one of the starting running backs for us. The other was a true sophomore, Tom Garden who scored the first touchdown. There was a photograph in the Tennessean the following morning of me shaking hands with Tom on the field during the post-game celebration. My other memory is also from a photograph of me tackling Bill Majors (probably after a long gain) in the game won by UT in Nashville in 1960.
Bob Sullins (1961-62, 1964)
I was a senior and had never scored a college touchdown until we beat Tennessee (7-0) in 1964 on Dudley Field. Everybody in the stands knew who was going to carry the ball when we got down to the goal line. John Bibb (Tennessean sports writer and Waxo Green (Nashville Banner sports writer) both had been writing about me being ranked in the Top Ten in rushing in the conference, but never scoring a touchdown. It was a terrific day. There was a blue sky and a great fall day for us to enjoy. It was one of those moments that you won’t forget. It was so good for (Coach) Jack Green who had been struggling with his team all year. It was pandemonium in the locker room after the game. To win against your archrival that we hadn’t beaten in years was special. I’m been asked many times about that game. You only talk about the games you win and that was a great game for us.
Jamie O’Rourke (1971, 1973-74)
My favorite highlight playing against UT was two years of silence from all Vols from November 1974 to November 1976 because they had failed to beat Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt people were suggesting that UT should consider getting out of the SEC. The 1974 game was the most miserable game I ever played in due to bone chilling cold wet day. UT failed to beat us and the game ended 21-21. All they could say is “We Tied Vandy.” It made for a relatively quiet two years since (Coach Fred) Pancoast and company beat UT in Knoxville in 1975.
Walter Overton (1971-72, 1974)
During my three years on the varsity we never defeated UT. We did tie them my senior year (21-21). My personal best memory was as a freshman we beat the UT freshmen, 24-14. Haskell Stanback was their star running back. I was the Vandy quarterback on the freshmen team that year. In that game I threw three touchdown passes to Mark Dietrich.
Whit Taylor (1979-1982)
Definitely the 1982 game versus Tennessee (28-21) and scoring the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter was a memorable moment. Also, the pass to Phil Roach a couple of plays earlier (65 yards) got us into position for me to score. The most interesting part of the day was when I woke up at the hotel, and it was pouring down rain. I was terrified of playing in the rain because my hands were so small and I thought I would not be able to grip the ball well. I kept waiting for the rain to stop and it never did. The 1981 game in Knoxville was also memorable to me. On the last play of the game I had a pass going to Allama Matthews in the corner of the end zone. It was the quietest I had ever heard Neyland Stadium, until it fell incomplete. We lost, 38-34.
Chuck Scott (1981-84)
My mom, dad and most of my family had gone to UT. Coach Johnny Majors had recruited me as a defensive back, but I wanted to be a receiver. When we beat the Vols (28-21) in my sophomore year, it still brings a big smile on my face today. Everything in our house had gone from Orange and White to Black and Gold. My mom, dad and everybody were on board in my four years at Vanderbilt. Now, they went back to Tennessee fans but still pull for Vandy. To score two touchdowns in that game and have a big day in a win over UT was big because Johnny Majors said he didn’t see me playing receiver in the SEC and I got a chance to show him I could.
Chris Gaines (1984-87)
I can remember the 1987 game against Tennessee like it was yesterday. It was my senior year and we were playing in front of 93, 000 plus in Knoxville. The last time Vanderbilt had won was 1982. We were so excited and wanted to close out the season on a strong note. We had a big lead at halftime then Tennessee came on strong in the second half and beat us 38-36. I was crushed that we didn’t finish it off and win. After the game we went walking across the field to shake hands. Coach Johnny Majors stopped me at mid-field, grabbed my arm and whispered some encouraging words in my ear. He told me what he thought of me as a player, congratulated us on our effort and wished me the best in future. Someone from the Tennessean captured that moment and later gave me a color photo. I have it hanging in my office to this day.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson (2002-09)
In 2005, it had been 30 years since Vanderbilt had defeated the Vols in Knoxville. However, with a good mixture of dedicated upperclassmen and some talented young players, that team went to Knoxville determined to win. The team was disappointed that a couple of close losses eliminated their chances for a bowl game. So they treated this trip to Knoxville as their bowl game. Vanderbilt had led for most of the game because of great offensive play from Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett and Marlon White. Our young defense was led by experienced linebackers Moses Osemwegie, Jon Goff and Marcus Buggs.
The Vols took the lead for the first time (24-21) with 8:15 left in the game. Our offense stalled late in the fourth quarter, but our defense forced Tennessee to punt. Getting the ball with 1:40 left and 63 yards from a touchdown, Cutler zoomed us down the field mainly throwing to freshman sensation Bennett. Cutler threw his last Vanderbilt pass, a beautiful slant to Earl, for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:11 left on the clock (28-24). I thought to myself that we might have scored too quickly. The Vols came back and moved the ball down the field, but a clutch interception by Jared Fagan in the end zone ended the game and allowed me to breathe again. I was so proud of how our players battled throughout the game. We celebrated our win with our fans in the stands, and kept the party going in the dressing room. We also had a huge welcome home reception by students and fans when we returned to Vanderbilt. It was a great win and a great day.
Austyn Carta-Samuels (2012-13)
In 2013 our 7-4 Vanderbilt team played a 5-6 Tennessee team on a cold night in Knoxville. I, as starting quarterback, was coming off my ACL being torn four weeks before and I knew this would be a challenge on one leg. The game was everything you would expect out of a rivalry - low scoring, mistake ridden and a 10-7 halftime lead for UT. The game remained that way until the last drive of the game. Tennessee punted after a great stop by our defense to down the ball on our own seven-yard line. The clock read 4:16. A few plays into the drive came a key screen throw to Jordan Matthews where he was marked short of the 33-yard line. This left us with fourth and one in a spot that would need a 45-yard field goal to tie the game. I told Coach (James) Franklin that I would get the eight inches we needed to move the chains. He trusted me and gave me a play, which was a quarterback sneak. I plunged for at least 24 of the eight inches I needed for the first down. Incredibly, I was ruled short. The referee then said those beautiful words, “the previous play is under review.”
After hearing the call overturned, Matthews and I locked eyes. I knew I was going to put the ball between the corner and the safety in the hole in Cover Two to Jordan on a vertical post route. The line once again did an incredible job protecting and Jordan was able to pull down a 26-yard reception to the eight-yard line. At that point, due to my knee and lack of ability to run, we brought in the perfect goal line quarterback to execute the perfect play call. I stared from the sideline with 16 seconds left as I watched Patton (Robinette) make an incredible play to take the ball to the corner of the UT end zone for a 14-10 lead. I will remember that game and season the rest of my life because of the brotherhood and relationships we had built with each other. This game was undoubtedly one of the few experiences in my life where I can look back and get a tear in my eye every time. I was blessed to be a part of something so much bigger than me, wear # 6 and be a member of that group of brothers. That is my UT story!
Traughber’s Tidbit: One Vanderbilt play against Tennessee’s third and long Cover Two defense in the 2013 game was called in the huddle by Carta-Samuels “Gun Trips Route Three Jet Z Hooter Y Go X Turn Back.” Carta-Samuels had two great wide receivers to pass in Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause.
If you have any comments or suggestions contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.