General Robert Neyland must be rolling over in his grave.
Nearly 100 years ago, Neyland was named the head coach of the Volunteers. His No. 1 task – beat Vanderbilt. A stretch from 1918-26 was the last time the Commodores owned a winning streak of three (or more) games over Tennessee.
That was until Saturday. Vanderbilt slammed Tennessee 38-13, preventing the Vols from becoming bowl eligible in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first season.
I was born in 1986. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I witnessed Vandy beat Tennessee. That year (2005), I watched in horror as Jay Cutler led the Commodores to victory in the house Neyland built.
I’ll never forget being in the student section and turning back to see two delirious Vandy fans dancing about 25 rows above me. Andy and Randal Harrell, two of my best friends in high school, were having one of the best fan moments of their lives.
I was in the process of having one of my worst, which would only tailspin later that night. That’s all I’ll say about Nov. 19, 2005.
Things started to normalize over the next five years, when Tennessee won each matchup – though all were close.
A sixth straight win came when Derek Dooley and the Vols topped Vanderbilt in OT in 2011. It’s remembered for two things - the first being Eric Gordon’s game-winning interception touchdown that was allowed after review despite there being a clear whistle blown to stop the play and the second was Dooley’s locker-room speech after the game.
“The one thing Tennessee always does is kick the …. out of Vandy,” screamed Dooley in a raucous locker room celebrating moving to 5-6.
Vanderbilt has won five of the last seven matchups. Most haven’t been close, with the Commodores winning 41-18 in 2012 and by a combined score of 80-37 the last two years.
Pruitt now has as many losses to Vanderbilt on his resume as Phillip Fulmer did in 17 years on The Hill. Some losses are just unforgivable to Tennessee fans.
I’m not ready to call for Pruitt’s job. Wins at Auburn and over ranked Kentucky bought him some time, but almost all of that clout evaporated during Saturday’s blowout.
If Pruitt can’t get it done next year, Tennessee may have to do something it hasn’t done in 100 years.
It’ll have to start looking for a coach who can consistently beat Vanderbilt.