7. 2005: Vanderbilt beats Tennessee 28-24
Six years before Tennessee football’s loss to the Kentucky Wildcats to end a streak, the Vols suffered another bad loss. And this ended numerous streaks, which combined with being at home, is why it’s a spot higher.
Like Kentucky in 2011, this loss resulted in Tennessee having an identical record to Vanderbilt. So it shouldn’t count as a huge upset. But all the other factors make it one, which is why we have to put it on here.
For starters, the Vols entered the year ranked No. 3 in the nation with national title expectations. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt was thinking about a bowl game Jay Cutler’s senior year. Through the end of September, both things were still possible. Vandy was 4-0, and Tennessee was 3-1, with its only loss against a struggling Florida Gators team.
But then October hit, and things fell apart. Vanderbilt began a six-game losing streak, two games of which were losses to significantly worse teams in the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and later Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Tennessee football fell apart on offense, constantly misusing its alternation of quarterbacks Rick Clausen and Erik Ainge. That collapse resulted in a four-game losing streak nobody saw coming to get the Vols to 3-5. This was a lost season, and the only thing they could hope for was a bowl game. Although Ainge was the future, Clausen was clearly better at the time, so they relied on him late to at least have a winning season.
And after beating the Memphis Tigers, they got to host the reeling Commodores. At least wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky would get them bowling. Well, they didn’t.
Vanderbilt, which was on a 22-game losing streak in the series at the time, jumped out to a 21-10 lead over the Vols in shocking fashion. However, like what happened to them all year, they collapsed in the second half. Tennessee came back and took a 24-21 lead late. Everybody could breath a sigh of relief.
But in his swan song, despite never getting the program to a bowl, Cutler had one more performance left in him. And he led a late, shocking game-winning drive to give the ‘Dores a 28-24 lead. The defense held as the game went down to the wire, and all of a sudden, Vanderbilt pulled off the upset.
The loss was at Neyland Stadium, it ended a long winning streak by Tennessee football, and it also knocked them out of a bowl game for the first time in 17 years. Yes, all of that made it more than worthy to put this game on the upset list.