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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Johnson: 'Dores enjoying taste of the big time

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vanderbilt safety Reshard Langford makes a tackle on Auburn running back Ben Tate after a short gain.
(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)
Call it "Lucky 13."

That's the talk around West End after Vanderbilt moved up six spots in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The 13th-ranked Commodores (5-0, 3-0 SEC) extended their win streak to five after a thrilling 14-13 win over Auburn Saturday night.

Vanderbilt hasn't been ranked that high since 1956.

What a great weekend for the city of Nashville, Vanderbilt University and Commodore fans.

With the game televised nationally on ESPN, along with ESPN's College GameDay broadcasting live on campus all day, the excitement was second to none.

Diehard Vandy fans deserve itů.it's been a long time coming!

Over the years I've had the opportunity to cover a lot of Vanderbilt games and I've never experienced the atmosphere and excitement of Saturday night. It was an experience that Vanderbilt graduate and local dentist Dr. Jimmy Clark thought he would never witness.

"I'm 57 years old and I've been going to Vanderbilt games since I was 3 and I have never seen anything like it. I've never seen so many students at a game and who would have thought that ESPN GameDay would have ever come to Vanderbilt plus beat a ranked team all in the same day?"

In years past when big-time SEC schools played in Nashville, it was almost like a home game for the visitors. That wasn't the case Saturday night.

The home crowd stayed loyal to their team with an estimated 70-30 split in my eyes.

There was a lot of orange and blue walking around the campus during the day, but it's my guess they had to watch the game on television.

Quite frankly, it was a game the Commodores would have never won a few years back but this football program, under the watchful eye of Bobby Johnson, is different.

They're no longer the "red-headed stepchild" of the SEC that everybody likes to pick on.

They are legitimate contenders who now know how to win close football games. Just ask South Carolina, Ole Miss and now the Tigers.

What's the difference?

They're playing great defense, excelling on special teams and putting points on the board.

So far this season, Vanderbilt has scored 18-of-19 times it has been inside an opponent's 20-yard line.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the Commodores have learned to handle pressure. In all five games this season, they've rallied from behind to win.

All the success and excitement has caught the attention of others as well.

Representatives from the Capital One, AutoZone Liberty and Papa John's.com bowls were in attendance Saturday night.

Sure, they have a number of very tough matchups ahead, but for now, give credit where it's due.

The 'Dores are 5-0 and are currently all alone at the top of the SEC East division.

--Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be reached at gjohnson@t-g.com.

Gary Johnson
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