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Halftime Thoughts: Tennessee-Vanderbilt

At the half, Tennessee leads Vanderbilt 24-7. 

Here are my thoughts from the first 30 minutes of the Vols' Senior Day matchup against the Commodores:

Defense controls out of the gate, but... 

On Vandy's first possession of the day, linebacker Jeremy Banks laid into Commodore quarterback Mike Wright. As he absorbed the hit, Wright fluttered a pass that Tennessee defensive back Theo Jackson took for a 55-yard pick-six. 

With the Vols out to a quick 7-0 lead, all Tennessee needed was an offensive spurt to put this one away early. 

Considering this is a team that averaged 14.8 points per first quarter entering Saturday's matchup, that spurt should have been no problem, right? Wrong.

....Offense stalls unexpectedly 

The Vols punted twice in the first quarter and generated just 51 yards of total offense in the first 15 minutes. During that time, UT held the ball for just three minutes and 49 seconds. 

Tennessee's second quarter didn't start much better, as Cedric Tillman -- who was the victim of several overthrows to start this season -- dropped what looked to be a sure touchdown pass when he ran free inside the Vanderbilt 5-yard-line. 

Offense breaks through as Tillman gets redemption

Still, all was not lost for the Vols' typically high-powered offense. 

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Following the incompletion, Tennessee chewed up 44 yards in nine plays. Hooker and Jabari Small finished off the drive, as Hooker plowed 10 yards before Small sprinted six yards into the end zone for a 14-0 lead after the PAT. 

UT relied on its ground game again through its next drive, as Hooker and Small combined to put the Vols at the Vandy 24. 

Cedric Tillman's redemption tour started from there, as the senior wideout took a screen pass, skirted around defenders and found the corner of the end zone to put UT ahead 21-0. 

Just before the end of the half, Chase McGrath nailed a 31-yard field goal to put the Vols ahead 24-0.

At the break, UT's offense has 193 total yards with 138 of those coming on the ground. 

Banks' unit remains on the money -- until the final second

After starting strong against the Commodores, Tennessee's defense remained so through almost the entirety of the first half. 

The Vols held Vanderbilt to 83 yards in the first quarter, and UT's defense was stellar in the second frame. 

With one second left in the half, though, Wright unleashed a desperation heave that Tennessee was unable to bat down. 

Will Sheppard hauled the ball in for a 56-yard score, and the Commodores mobbed him before heading to the locker room. 

We'll have more updates through the second half.