On the first drive against the Vanderbilt Commodores, Tennessee Football seemed to set the tone with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Joe Milton III to Ramel Keyton on the third play of the game. However, Clark Lea’s team responded with a touchdown of its own to tie the game up, and then the two teams exchanged punts twice.
There was a real chance that Vandy would make this an ugly game and threaten Rocky Top. After all, the Vols had looked awful each of the past two weeks, they are massively injured, and the ‘Dores, who care about this game more than any other, were coming off a bye week. Everything seemed to favor them.
After a crucial stop by the defense, though, Tennessee Football drove down the field and brought up a 2nd and goal from the 10-yard line. Milton threw a 10-yard fade pattern to McCallan Castles, a score that put the Vols in the lead 14-7. It was arguably the most beautiful pass of Milton’s career, one that Lea dared him to throw.
Although it was only a one-score game, that touchdown put the Vols ahead after Vanderbilt had pulled out all the stops to make it a game early. You knew by that point that UT was going to pull away in a blowout. Jabari Small deserves credit for setting up that drive with two great runs, but Milton finished the job en route to a six-touchdown performance, four of which he threw for.
All year, accuracy has been an issue for Milton, so this also set the tone in that he could make those throws, and he did the rest of the day. Tennessee Football relied on offensive seniors out of eligibility to make the plays largely in the game, as Keyton, Jacob Warren and Milton were the stars, but Castles made the play here.
That touchdown marked the start of a succession in which the Vols scored four touchdowns and a field goal on six total drives, as they were able to pull away and dominate. Josh Heupel’s kids easily could have thrown in the towel given the season, but it was the proper sendoff for a select group of seniors, and Milton had a huge role in that.