For the second year in a row, Tennessee entered its final two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky needing a sweep to earn its sixth win of the season and a bowl bid.
   
 Last year, the Volunteers accomplished that task, and this year they’re a win over the Wildcats away from doing so for the second consecutive season.
    
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a football team in all my years,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “The adversity these guys have gone through, and what happened last week (at Arkansas), I know nobody was expecting us to come out and do much. But we went out there and just gritted out a win and that was fun to watch.”
    
Despite the adversity and criticism surrounding the program, the Vols avoided losing their seventh SEC game for the first time in school history with the win over Vanderbilt.
    
“I’ve kept telling them I’ve seen a lot of good in them the last six weeks that a lot of people can’t see,” Dooley said. “I kept believing in them and they kept believing in themselves, and it’s real easy to get lost in that. It’s toxic, all the negativity that can surround the program, and it’s hard on a young man — it’s hard for adults — to be insulated from it. But the old Orange Dog did its magic. It was positive all night. We never tucked our tails or put our head down tonight, and there was a lot of opportunity to.”

    
    
Controversial ending
    
Eric Gordon’s game-winning interception returned for a touchdown sent the Tennessee sidelines and Neyland Stadium into celebration mode.
    
But the play sent the game’s officials scrambling to figure out just what happened because of an inadvertent whistle that blew after Gordon intercepted the Jordan Rodgers’ pass. After the game, the SEC announced the play should not have been reviewed because of the whistle during the play.
    
“On the last play of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game, in overtime, the Tennessee defender intercepted the pass, his knee did not touch the ground and he returned the interception for a touchdown,” Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Officials said in a statement after the game. “During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player’s knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal. The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable.”
    
Regardless, Gordon was credited with the score and UT was given the win. And Vol players and fans were able to celebrate a second time.
    
“I saw him catch it and then I tried to run with him as fast as I could,” senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “I ended up doing the Lambeau leap into the stands and then I saw there was a flag. After they called it and we had won, I did the leap into the student section again, so it was fun.”
   
 Said senior middle linebacker Austin Johnson: “It was unbelievable. It is a great way to end my career here at Neyland Stadium. I thank all the fans, and it has been a great experience.”
    

    
Bray returns
    
Tyler Bray’s return to the lineup after missing UT’s previous five games provided a spark for a struggling Vols’ team, despite his sub-par performance.
    
“He struggled a lot,” Dooley said. “I told you guys he wasn’t going to look like his form from six weeks ago, but he made enough plays to win the game.”
    
Entering the game with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14:2, Bray doubled his interception total on the season and both picks directly lead to two Vanderbilt touchdowns.
    
“I think I completed more passes to the other team than I did to ours,” Bray said jokingly after the game. “You could blame it on rust. It’s not though. It’s just me throwing to the other team. Me just making mistakes.”
    
While Bray wasn’t expected to return to his pre-injury form his first game back, not knowing what play was called when UT took over at its own 38-yard line with 20 seconds remaining in regulation wasn’t expected.
    
“Well, we were trying to run a screen play and we thought we could get a first down,” Dooley said. “Tyler, he didn’t even know what the play was. So he called something insane in the huddle. And you know, I mean, we were laughing about it. The guy, our screen play is called ‘soccer, soccer right.’ And he called ‘sucker,’ which we don’t even have. And then he just invented a play.”
    
Said Bray: “Yeah, we do have a play called sucker and soccer. (Quarterbacks) coach (Darin) Hinshaw was all jacked up and yelling and I really didn’t understand what he said so I just went in there and called something and I was like, ‘Tauren, just check down. Block for a little bit and check down and we’ll throw it to you and get out of this quarter.’ I had no idea what we were running.”