Majors Receives a Victorious Sendoff : SEC: Tennessee defeats Vanderbilt, 29-25, in Volunteer coach’s final regular-season game.
Johnny Majors won his final regular-season game as coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
James Stewart scored two touchdowns Saturday, including one on a one-yard dive with 1:49 to play, lifting No. 18 Tennessee to a 29-25 Southeastern Conference victory over Vanderbilt.
Earlier this month, Majors said he would resign after the season because the university refused to extend his contract beyond 1994.
Offensive coordinator Phillip Fulmer, who had a 3-0 record as head coach while Majors was recovering from heart surgery earlier this season, is expected to become the Volunteers’ new coach today. He will probably share the coaching duties with Majors in the Hall of Fame Bowl, where the Vols are expected to play Boston College on Jan. 1.
“I’ve thought about my future some,” said Majors, who has a 116-62-8 record in 16 years at Tennessee. “But I am not ready to make any comments about my future today. This is the Tennessee team’s day. Two fine teams today played awfully hard. I don’t plan to talk about my future.”
The Volunteers, 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the SEC, scored 22 points during the fourth quarter to beat intrastate rival Vanderbilt for the 10th consecutive time.
“Our team did what it took to win,” said Majors, who is 15-1 against Vanderbilt. “We didn’t look great at times, but we were always in it. Our finish was superb.”
The Volunteers took the lead for good after Heath Shuler moved them 59 yards in three plays. Stewart scored his second touchdown of the quarter from a yard out with 1:49 left to put Tennessee ahead, 20-19.
Shuler said the team didn’t dwell on the fact that it was Majors’ last regular-season game.
“Everyone sort of kept that in the back of our heads,” he said.
Tennessee held Vanderbilt’s league-leading rushing attack to 95 yards. But Tennessee couldn’t contain quarterback Marcus Wilson, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 248 yards. Wilson kept the Commodores in the game by connecting with Clarence Sevillian on touchdown pass plays of 88, 43 and three yards.
After Stewart’s touchdown dive, Wilson’s fumble gave Tennessee the ball at Vanderbilt’s 12. One play later, Charlie Garner scored on an eight-yard run to give Tennessee a 29-19 lead with 1:24 left.
Wilson’s final touchdown to Sevillian, which gave the receiver six catches for 222 yards, pulled Vanderbilt (4-7, 2-6) to within 29-25 with 47 seconds left. Wilson’s pass for a two-point conversion fell short, and the Commodores were unable to regain possession on an onside kick attempt.
Tennessee took a 14-13 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Stewart with 13:31 left in the game. Stewart took a pitch from Shuler, who was in the grasp of tacklers when he got rid of the ball.
John Becksvoort missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt for Tennessee in the third quarter, and his 48-yard attempt fell short during the fourth.
Tennessee’s defense shut down the Commodores for most of the first half, allowing only 19 yards on offense.
Volunteer punter Tom Hutton kept Vanderbilt pinned inside its 20, and the Commodores did not record a first down until there was 10:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Tennessee gained 457 yards, with Shuler completing 23 of 38 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown. Shuler connected with Craig Faulkner across the middle for a 57-yard touchdown pass play with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Vanderbilt got on track behind Tony Jackson, who rushed for 21 yards in moving Vanderbilt to the Tennessee 25. The Commodores had to settle for a 47-yard field goal by Robbie Chura with 7:33 left in the half.
Wilson put Vanderbilt ahead, 10-7, with 2:34 left in the half when he hooked up with Sevillian for an 88-yard touchdown pass play, the longest in Vanderbilt history.
The Volunteers blew a chance to tie the score before halftime when a penalty nullified a six-yard gain to the Vanderbilt 32, and time ran out as Shuler threw an incomplete pass.