NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee Volunteers gathered in front of their band singing and swaying back and forth in celebration.
The way their fans took over Vanderbilt Stadium, the Vols had their pick of spots to celebrate being bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Joshua Dobbs ran for two touchdowns and 91 yards as Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 24-17 Saturday to snap a two-game skid to their in-state rival that had been their longest in this series since 1925-26.
Tennessee's win also gives the Southeastern Conference a league-record 12 bowl-eligible teams with the Vols (6-6, 3-5) joining the crowd in coach Butch Jones' second season.
"It rewards everyone for their resiliency, particularly our seniors," Jones said. "This will be their first bowl game."
Cameron Sutton returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown for Tennessee. The Volunteers also came up with three interceptions and three sacks, two by Curt Maggitt.
The Commodores (3-8, 0-8) at least avoided losing an eighth league game by double digits to wrap up coach Derek Mason's first season a year after going 9-4. Still, they lost all their SEC games for the first time since 2009 in Bobby Johnson's last season. Torren McGaster had two interceptions, and the Commodores sacked Dobbs three times.
"There will be changes that need to be made in my program," first-year coach Derek Mason said.
Tennessee outgained Vanderbilt 83-12 in offense through the first quarter, then lost freshman running back Jalen Hurd to an upper-body injury. Jones said only it was to an upper body extremity. The Commodores finished with a 272-262 edge in total offense.
"With Jalen out, we had to rely on Josh and Marlin Lane is an individual who hasn't played much all year and for him to step up like he did in a critical game it was great to see his efforts rewarded as well," Jones said.
Patton Robinette, who beat Tennessee in Neyland Stadium a year ago with a touchdown in the final seconds, replaced starter Johnny McCrary after he was picked off in the end zone by Justin Coleman. Robinette threw for 131 yards and ran for 37 more, and he tried to rally the Commodores to another last-second win in this series.
Robinette got the Commodores to the Tennessee 49 with an 18-yard pass to Kris Kentera. But he was incomplete on his final three passes, the last on fourth-and-10 when he couldn't connect with a wide-open Trey Wilkins. Tennessee kneeled down to run out the final seconds for the win and started celebrating.
"We've been preaching six, six, six the whole week, so just wanted to come here and take the opportunity and get to a bowl game," Tennessee receiver Alton "Pig" Howard said.
The Vols came into the game without receiver Marquez North, and losing Hurd left them even thinner on offense. Dobbs wound up throwing for 92 yards with completions to only three receivers. Dobbs ran 21 times and got some help from senior Marlin Lane who ran for 51 yards.
Dobbs scored just before halftime to cap a 94-yard drive giving Tennessee a 17-10 halftime lead, and he added an 8-yard TD with 3:19 left in the third quarter for a 24-10 lead.
The Vols wore a red arrowhead sticker with the message "29 Strong VFL" in honor of former player Eric Berry, who now wears No. 29 for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. He went on the non-football injury list Monday after a mass was found on his chest that doctors believe could be lymphoma, and his twin brothers play for Tennessee. Fans chanted Berry's name several times during the game.
Vanderbilt pulled within 24-17 when Ralph Webb bounced off two Tennessee defenders on his way to a 3-yard TD late in the third, then McGaster picked off his second pass of the game giving the Commodores the ball at the Tennessee 47 within the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Robinette was intercepted two plays later by Tennessee safety Brian Randolph, and the Commodores didn't get back to midfield until inside the final minute.