Within 48 hours of the completion of one of the most fiery, competitive and intense installments of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee football rivalry there already was bulletin board material for the next chapter.
After Tennessee outlasted Vanderbilt 27-21 in overtime on Saturday on a 90-yard interception return by Nashville native Eric Gordon, the Volunteers erupted on the field at Neyland Stadium. That celebration carried over into the locker room.
On Sunday a shaky, two-minute plus video of the post-game commotion was posted on YouTube, showing Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley being hoisted into the air several times, touching the “T” on the ceiling. At the end of his postgame speech, Dooley reminded his team that “the one thing Tennessee always does is kick the [expletive] out of Vandy.”
The video was news to Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy and defensive tackle Rob Lohr when they met with members of the media on Monday. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, however, was well aware of Dooley’s message.
“I’ve heard about it. We’ll talk about it next year — a lot,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “We’ll talk about it as much you guys want to talk about it next year. We’ll watch it as many times as we’ve got to watch it next year. That’s a wound that I am going to leave open. It is not going to heal. I am going to leave it open for a year and we’ll discuss it next year.”
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Dooley was asked about the scene in the locker room but he wasn’t specifically questioned about what he yelled.
“I’m a little disappointed that a video is out on our locker room celebration but that is kind of the world we live in. It is like there is no sacred place,” Dooley said. “I think probably all the 120 coaches out there in football have a side to them where they loosen up to the team that they don’t do in public.
"Am I excited after a win? I always am. After a win [it] is emotional. Certainly when you win a close game, down to the wire, it is exciting. You take those things for what they are — it is a postgame, emotional, have a little fun and then you close the door on it when you leave. “
The victory extended Tennessee’s winning streak against Vanderbilt to six games. The Commodores (5-6, 2-6 SEC) have lost 28 of the last 29 meetings.
On Saturday, though, Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-6 SEC) seriously threatened Tennessee’s chances to reach a bowl. It also was the first overtime game between the schools.
The wild celebration — on the field and in the locker room — might have turned up the heat for a rivalry that has been one-sided for three decades.
“I look at it as respect,” Franklin said. “Some people act like they won the Super Bowl and they beat a team that the two previous years have won four games total. Obviously, we are closing the gap and threatening some people and making some people uncomfortable. We’ll see. We will leave it at that. We’ll move on. We’ll have a lot of discussions about this next year when the time is right.”
• Further review: When Gordon intercepted Jordan Rodgers’ pass in overtime, an official blew his whistle and ruled Gordon’s knee had touched the ground. The play was reviewed and the call was overturned, ending the game.
An hour after the game, though, Southeastern Conference coordinator of officials Steve Shaw released a statement that said the replay review shouldn’t have happened.
“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,” Shaw said. “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.”
Franklin said he spoke with representatives from the SEC on Monday morning about the ruling.
“I’d rather not know [that the officials messed up], to be honest with you. You’re on the bus ride back [and hear the news] and, you know, it is what it is,” Franklin said. “I got the email and that was nice. I got a phone call [Monday] and I appreciate ... those guys are great to work with. They’re very respectful. They call. We have a good conversation. But it doesn’t change anything. We still have to live with the results of what happened on the field and move on.”
• Musical kickers: Carey Spear has regained his job as Vanderbilt’s starting kicker heading into the final game of the regular season at Wake Forest on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPNU).
Spear reassumed placekicking duties midway through last weekend’s game and kicked the Commodores’ last two extra points. The sophomore replaced junior Ryan Fowler, who missed two field goals in the second quarter.
The two have combined to miss six of the last eight field goal attempts, dating back to the fifth game of the season.
“Those guys, all though they have kicked in the past, they haven’t really been in that situation with high-pressure kicks that are going to determine our outcome a lot,” Franklin said. “This is another really good opportunity for growth. They’ll be better because of it. Maybe not right now but they’ll be better because of it.”
• 1,000-yard rusher: Junior running back Zac Stacy needs just 48 rushing yards to become the school’s fourth single-season, 1,000-yard rusher.
The last Commodore to achieve the feat was Jermaine Johnson (1,072) in 1995. With 952 yards, Stacy is fourth all-time among single-season rushers. He also has 10 rushing touchdowns, the most by a Vanderbilt running back since Jamie O’Rourke had 12 in 1974.