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Friday, May 6, 2016

Bowl win marks turnaround for Commodore program

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Vanderbilt Commodores storm the field prior to kickoff in Monday's Music City Bowl.
(T-G Photo by Chris Siers)
On Monday, Vanderbilt capped off its most successful season since 1915 with an impressive 38-24 win over NC State in the Music City Bowl, hitting the nine-win mark for the first time in 97 years.

Think about that for a second. The last time Vanderbilt hit the nine-win mark, Babe Ruth was a had just completed in his first full year as a professional baseball player, gas was 25 cents a gallon, and Woodrow Wilson held the presidency of the United States.

Something is brewing in the west end of Nashville and what Commodore fans were treated to in the 2012 season is just a taste of things to come.

Without a doubt, the biggest x-factor that has made the Black and Gold tick has been what coach James Franklin has brought to the table.

If you need any evidence of what he has been able to do, just revert back to the game played on Nov. 17 when the 'Dores smacked in-state rival Tennessee 41-18.

It wasn't just a win over Tennessee that secured the thought that things are headed in the right direction for Vanderbilt either.

In the season opener, Vanderbilt played South Carolina to the wire, but eventually fell 17-13.

The Commodores did rebound throughout the season and posted a 5-3 record in the SEC. Not bad considering a year prior the they posted a meager 2-6 record in the SEC West, and went on to lose to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.

Offensively, Vanderbilt was average at best, but had some playmakers step up and come through at various points throughoutthe year.

Senior QB Jordan Rodgers finished the season with over 2,500 yards to his credit and threw 15 touchdowns against five INTs.

While the pass game was average, Zac Stacy bulldozed his way to nearly 1,200 rushing yards and scored 10 TDs himself.

Vandy players hold the Music City Bowl trophy up during the post-game celebration.
(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)
The Commodores had a pair of standout receivers in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd in the 2012 campaign, with Matthews hitting the 1,300 yards mark and scoring eight TDs. Boyd nearly hit 800 yards with five TDs.

While the offense, as stated, was about average, it was Vanderbilt's defense that really nothing short of impressive.

When it was all said and done, the Commodores boasted the 15th best defense in the nation among FBS teams, allowing a mere 19 points per game. In fact, the most points allowed by the Commodores in a single game came in a blowout loss to Georgia when Vandy was hit with a 48-3 loss.

Other than that, Vanderbilt went on to win eight of its last nine games, including the win in the Music City Bowl.

In the bowl game, it was the defense that forced five NC State turnovers, which allowed the offense to pile up 38 points.

The win was all the sweeter for Stacy, who capped off his senior season with a team high 107 yards, including a six-yard touchdown run.

So with all that being taken into account, if one thing is for sure, it's that Vanderbilt is definitely a program on the rise. While a few holes on offense will need to be filled for the upcoming season, the 'Dores have no longer become a team to automatically pencil in a win.

Rather, Vanderbilt has become a real contender in the league and with Franklin at the helm, only good things will come in the third year of his tenure.

The pieces are in place for the program to flourish, so long as the Commodore brass can continue to rally the troops and continue to fan the flames of the fire that was ignited in 2012.