“RECALLING THE FIRST VICTORY OVER VANDERBILT”

FRIDAY, NOV. 16, 2007 –When Tennessee and Vanderbilt squared off Nov. 7, 1914, in Nashville, the Vols were 0-11-1 against the Commodores, being outscored 267-18. That may seem hard for the youngsters among us — and some of us geezers, as well — to believe, but Tennessee had only won twice, that year and in 1916, against the Commodores before Capt. Neyland’s arrival in 1926.
Most Tennessee historians consider the 1928 Alabama game, Tennessee 15, Alabama 13, Oct. 20 at Tuscaloosa, the program’s first great victory, but if that Alabama game is No. 1, this one is at least 1A.


There’s always been something special about first victories after a number of losses (or a first victory, period) in a “rivalry game.” These games are always memorable. That was the case then, and it’s still the case now. The final that day was 16-14, good guys.
Led by head coach Zora G. Clevenger, a former player at Indiana who apparently walked the sidelines without personal assistants, headsets, or any number of police officers like most coaches today, the Vols had something really big going in 1914, having given up just 10 points in the previous six games and pitching shutouts against four opponents.
There were scores of 89-0 against Carson-Newman, 66-0 against Louisville, and 67-0 against Chattanooga. There was also a 17-7 victory over Alabama Oct. 24. The final point tally in a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) championship season was 374-37. The Vols dispatched each of nine opponents like clockwork.
The Vanderbilt game was called the “most talked-about and long-awaited game in Tennessee’s history.”
Knoxville’s Grand Theatre offered a telegraphic play-by-play account “by direct wire from Dudley Field.” Southern Railway offered a round trip to Nashville for $6.75. Southern also offered a $2 round trip to Chattanooga for the Sewanee game the next week, and was able to fill two special trains for the trip.
There was no mention of a game ticket, if one were even necessary.
“Knoxville businessmen have been taking more interest in the Tennessee football team this year than ever before,” read a newspaper story, “and quite a number of them will witness the game Saturday.”
William “Goat” Carroll scored all 16 points for the Vols that day, on a pair of touchdown passes from Bill May, an extra point and 15-yard field goal. The team later had dinner at Carroll’s home, located near the Vanderbilt campus.
The next week, classes were dismissed for a day of celebration by order of UT president Brown Ayres, the “Ayres” of Ayres Hall, causing an unnamed Vanderbilt official to comment on Tennessee’s “over-emphasis on athletics and under-emphasis on academics.” There’s nothing new there.
That season, four Vols earned All-Southern honors: Carroll, tackle Farmer Kelly, guard R. V. (Mush) Kerr, and back Rus Lindsey.
Here’s what the Knoxville Journal wrote about the game.
“It may be a long way to Tipperary,” the story began, “but the longest roads end somewhere. For twenty years, Tennessee football teams have been trying to accomplish what many thought was impossible; for twenty years, Volunteer teams have been marching up the hill, only to turn around and march right back down again, but today, they pulled the hill down with them.”
That’s an early look at a big-time win in Tennessee football history. There’s nothing like the first one.
Or any of the others that have followed.