The Tennessee Vols completed a 7-5 regular season with a 45-21 victory last Saturday over Vanderbilt in Knoxville on their Senior Day. Sadly, the Commodores suffered through their second consecutive winless SEC season (2-10 overall).

NASHVILLE, TN — The first-year seasons of new Tennessee and Vanderbilt head coaches Josh Heupel and Clark Lea concluded in vastly different fashion Saturday in Knoxville. It was Senior Day for the Volunteers and they romped 45-21, concluding the year with a 7-5 (4-4 SEC) record. They await news on which bowl they will appear, and their offense continues to pile up impressive numbers.

Tennessee had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the second time this year as freshman Jaylen Wright and sophomore Jabari Small each had 15 carries for 112 and 103 yards, respectively. Tennessee averaged 6.8 yards per rush, totaling 285 yards on the ground for its fourth game above 250 yards rushing this season.Redshirt senior quarterback Hendon Hooker delivered another efficient performance for UT, producing 231 total yards (156 passing, 75 rushing) and passing for a pair of touchdowns. The signal caller has thrown a touchdown in 11 consecutive games, matching Erik Ainge (2004-05) and Peyton Manning (1995-96) for the fourth-longest streak in program history.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Cedric Tillman led all receivers Saturday with six catches for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Las Vegas native has a touchdown catch in each of his last six games, becoming the first Vol to accomplish the feat since Joey Kent in 1995. Tillman is also the first Vol to record 100-plus receiving yards in three consecutive games since Da’Rick Rogers did so in 2011.

For Vanderbilt, the SEC losing streak stands at 21. They ended the year 0-8 in the conference (2-10 overall). There wasn’t much good that happened after UT defensive back Theo Jackson opened the scoring with his first career pick-six on Vanderbilt’s fifth play from scrimmage. The Nashville native jumped the comeback route, picking off Vanderbilt QB Mike Wright’s pass to the left sideline and returning it 55 yards to the checkerboard. Redshirt senior placekicker Chase McGrath knocked the PAT through the uprights—his 125th consecutive made extra point—to give the Vols a 7-0 edge with 12:20 left in the first quarter. Jackson’s pick-six was Tennessee’s third interception returned for a touchdown this season, its most since housing four picks in 2013.

Vanderbilt broke up the shutout with a 56-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half. Quarterback Mike Wright escaped the pocket and scrambled to his right before launching the ball to the end zone, where sophomore wideout Will Sheppard snared it between a pair of Tennessee defenders and fell into the end zone as time expired.

They also showed some fight in the second half, putting together one touchdown drive of 13-plays, 75-yards that took nearly eight (7:59) minutes. Running back Rocko Griffith took his ninth carry of the drive 13 yards into the end zone to cut the deficit to 31-13. Later they used almost 11 minutes (10:55) with an extensive 20-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Wright’s four-yard QB keeper for a touchdown. He then passed to fifth-year senior Chris Pierce Jr. in the back of the end zone on the two-point conversion to make it a 38-21 ballgame.

But the Commodores know they have miles to go before becoming competitive in the SEC. While Tennessee aims for an eight-win season, Vanderbilt has to become consistent enough offensively to not fall far behind in games. Defensively they have to find ways to stop teams, and while the pass defense was often effective, the run defense was shredded all season. As a defensive-oriented coach, Lea’s first off-season priority will be getting better on that side of the ball, while also hoping for more passing accuracy from QB Wright, and more overall effectiveness and consistency.