Calhoun Times

Vols eager to finish successful regular season

- By David Paschall

Football fans of the Tennessee Volunteers have been dreaming of the good ol’ days for several seasons now.

Awaiting a postseason destinatio­n as 31-point favorites over Vanderbilt does have a little reminiscen­t feel to it.

Tennessee earned bowl eligibilit­y with Saturday night’s 60-14 shellackin­g of South Alabama, but the Vols are looking to improve their 6-5 mark to 7-5 against a Commodores program that has suffered 20 consecutiv­e Southeaste­rn Conference defeats. The Vols are responsibl­e for two of those 20, thumping Vandy 28-10 two years ago in Neyland Stadium and 4217 last season in Nashville.

The Commodores have been overwhelme­d more often than not in Clark

Lea’s first season, succumbing 62-0 to Georgia, 42-0 to Florida and 45-6 to Mississipp­i State, but they played one of their more respectabl­e games this past weekend in a 31-17 loss at Ole Miss.

“I think they’ve continued to get better throughout the course of the season,” Vols first-year coach Josh Heupel said Monday. “Last week, they had the opportunit­y to turn that into a onepossess­ion game late in the football game but weren’t able to convert in the red zone. Their quarterbac­k having the ability to run is a big part of their game and something we’ve got to do a good job against this week.”

A pair of sophomores led Vanderbilt’s attack in Oxford, with quarterbac­k Mike Wright completing 22 of 44 passes for 241 yards with an intercepti­on and also rushing 13 times for 61 yards. The Commodores were led on the ground by Rocko Griffin’s 26 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown.

Tennessee’s convincing wins the past two seasons against Vanderbilt followed a three-year run in which the Commodores prevailed by double digits, including a 38-13 romp in 2018. Heupel didn’t have anything to do with those results, and his focus will be trying to top the recent ravaging of the Jaguars.

“This is the end of the regular season,” he said, “and we’re going to finish it.”

Saturday is also Senior Day, as the Vols will play for an eighth and final time this season in Neyland. Several seniors have eligibilit­y remaining due to the added year the NCAA provided due to the outbreak of the coronaviru­s, but it’s the last home game for sixth-year receiver Velus Jones Jr. and fifth-year defensive lineman Ja’Quain Blakely.

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