Nov. 22, 2008
||Senior safety Reshard Langford scored his first career touchdown after he intercepted a pass by Tennessee quarterback B.J. Coleman in the third quarter.
(Photo by John Russell)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- In the middle of one of its worst seasons in history, Tennessee still found a way to beat instate rival Vanderbilt.
Eric Berry returned his seventh interception of the season for a touchdown to help the Vols beat the Commodores 20-10 on Saturday.
The win helped Tennessee (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) avoid a school-worst eight losses for at least one week while Vanderbilt (6-5, 4-4) missed a chance to capture its second five-win SEC season.
The Vols were hoping to honor Phillip Fulmer with wins over Vanderbilt and in the season finale against Kentucky. Fulmer announced earlier this month that he was being pushed out as coach at the end of the season after 17 seasons with Tennessee.
Berry holds the SEC's single-season and career records with 265 interception return yards for the season and 487 for his career. His pick today was the 12th of his career.
Tennessee's offense, which ranked only ahead of Vanderbilt's in the SEC with 267.1 yards per game, found life -- scoring in the double digits for the first time since Oct. 18.
Eleven games into the season, Tennessee debuted two new faces at quarterback. Redshirt freshman B.J. Coleman took over on the third drive of the game, sharing snaps with Berry.
In the second quarter, Coleman and Lennon Creer combined for eight straight rushes for 57 yards. On third-and-1, Montario Hardesty broke through a pile at the line of scrimmage and trotted into the end zone to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead with 11:25 before halftime.
Hardesty broke a 27-yard run, his longest of the season, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Daniel Lincoln to put Tennessee up 10-0 with 7:45 in the second quarter.
Five plays later, Berry picked off a pass by Chris Nickson and returned it 45 yards to give Tennessee a 17-0 lead.
By halftime, Tennessee had 122 yards of offense compared to Vanderbilt's 25 and overall, all but 21 of Tennessee's 243 total yards on offense were on the ground. Of Vanderbilt's 213 yards, only 25 yards were by rushing.
When a 31-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt and a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by Reshard Langford cut Tennessee's lead to 20-10 in the third quarter, the Commodores appeared poised for yet another comeback push.
With six minutes left in the game, Mackenzi Adams connected with Justin Wheeler on an 18-yard pass and converted fourth-and-9 with a 21-yard pass to D.J. Moore.
But when Vanderbilt was faced with fourth-and-10 on the Tennessee 39, Adams' pass to Sean Walker fell one yard shy of the first down, ending the Commodores' hopes.
Vanderbilt struggled the entire first half behind Nickson. On his six drives as starter, the Commodores went backward on three of them, went three and out on another and turned the ball over twice.
Vanderbilt got the ball on the Tennessee 34 when Lewis picked off Vols starter Jonathan Crompton on the second play of the game, but the Commodores lost eight yards on the play thanks to an illegal block in the back penalty by Brandon Barden.
Adams took over for Nickson on the last drive of the first half and successfully moved Vanderbilt 26 yards but threw an interception to Brent Vinson at the Vanderbilt 34. Vinson returned it 69 yards to set up a 24-yard field goal by Lincoln to give Tennessee a 20-0 lead at halftime.
Adams finished 18-for-38 for 192 yards and the interception.