Zac Stacy and Jordan Rodgers
The Vanderbilt football team won its ninth game of 2012 and enabled the Commodores to claim a total of 15 wins over the past two seasons, the first time VU has attained such a feat in college football's modern era. Other than that, nothing big happened on Monday afternoon in Nashville.
13:17 left, first quarter: Converting a third and seven with a run is a great way to tell a struggling North Carolina State bunch that this day could be a very long one for the Wolfpack. That play might pay immediate psychological dividends for Vanderbilt.
10:10: Dropped passes near the goal line have a familiar flavor to them... the flavor James Franklin is trying to expunge from this program.
9:51: DID CHRIS BOYD REALLY DO THAT?!.
9:51, part two: YES! YES HE DID! I wasn't entirely sold on the notion that he had full control of the ball while his toe was still down, but replays changed the equation. Say what you want about indisputable video evidence, but when a play that spectacular is made, it's great to see the effort rewarded. That's how it should be in the sport of football at any level of competition.
6:28: North Carolina State is being smart in its use of the passing game. Quarterback Mike Glennon's drops are being limited to five-step drops at the most. He's getting rid of the ball early, and the Wolfpack are using short crossing routes in the middle third of the field. That kind of passing structure makes it easier for the quarterback to release the ball quickly. Vanderbilt has to make adjustments, either with pressure or with clogging the middle of the field.
4:57: Who needs adjustments when North Carolina State can implode, as it is wont to do?
2:32: It seemed that Jordan Rodgers's deep first-down throw on that last series of downs was cut down by the wind. The ball died; the pass might have been completed if it had traveled another yard and a half.
2:25: THERE'S THE PRESSURE VANDERBILT'S PASS RUSH NEEDED TO GENERATE! Good blitz call from defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
0:36: On third and four, a deep ball doesn't make a lot of sense. On fourth and four, a straight dropback pass (with a deep drop by Rodgers) doesn't allow the ball to be released quickly to a receiver or setback in open space. Those are two plays the VU offensive staff would probably like to have back.
0:05: Vanderbilt has been decent, but North Carolina State has been a total mess. The Commodores need to take advantage of the Wolfpack's inability to do much of anything. We've seen in this bowl season – especially from TCU-Michigan State and Rutgers-Virginia Tech – that if you don't maximize your advantage in the first half when things are going well, you can suffer an ambush loss in the second half.
End Of First Quarter Score: Vanderbilt 7, North Carolina State 0.
14:32 left, second quarter: Here you go, Commodores. North Carolina State is begging for you to blow them out of Nashville. Take this ball and stick it in the end zone. Pull away.
13:21: Another third-and-four long ball? What is this?!
11:54: POW! What a great stick! Darreon Herring brought the noise there. North Carolina State is playing an abysmal game, but that could legitimately be viewed as a forced error. Vanderbilt's defense has earned straight As in this game so far. Maybe the Commodores can finally blow the doors off the Pack.
10:08: Not just a touchdown, but a touchdown delivered with old-fashioned power running. That's exactly how you demoralize an already discouraged opponent.
7:16: That incomplete pass in the end zone had nothing to do with Vanderbilt's defense. That was a stone-cold drop. The Commodores need to raise their level here.
6:18: North Carolina State flipped on the switch. The Wolfpack have already coughed up a boatload of turnovers, but find themselves down by only one score. If they clean up their act, this can easily be a fight to the finish line at LP Field. Now is the time for the Commodores' offense to mount a full-length drive without the assistance of a turnover-created short field.
6:08: OR……. Vanderbilt's offense can make use of a short field following a long kick return and an NCSU penalty. Works for James Franklin and the rest of the Anchor Down community, I'm sure.
4:03: Zac Stacy was so marvelously patient on that play, knowing he had enough space to wait for his blocks and find a small lane for a third-down conversion.
3:47: Textbook execution by the Vanderbilt ground game. It's been genuinely clinical the past two drives.
3:35: Does Vanderbilt want to do things the easy way? HECK NO! Why would the Commodores ever want to do something like that against a non-losing team? It's worth recalling that Vanderbilt gave up a kick return for a touchdown to Cincinnati in last year's bowl game, the 2011 Liberty Bowl.
1:04: The bounce of the ball seemed to be in one interrupted direction, suggesting that there wasn't enough evidence to support an overturn and a subsequent ruling of a muff, giving Vanderbilt the ball. I can't really argue with upholding the on-field call there.
0:54: WHO CARES ABOUT THAT NON-MUFF CALL NOW?
0:41: Vanderbilt has received a pick-me-up from NCSU each time the lead has been sliced to one possession. Nobody in black and gold will mind.
0:02: Twice on defense, once on special teams, Vanderbilt's intensity has dropped following the attainment of a 14-point lead (14-0, 21-7, 28-14). Franklin is going to focus on that point in the locker room.
Halftime Score: Vanderbilt 28, North Carolina State 14.
13:14 left, third quarter: The pass pressure just isn't cutting it for the Dores.
12:55:Mike Glennon comes to Vanderbilt's aid once again. I thought that was a poor decision by VU's Trey Wilson to come out of the end zone, but he knew better. He saw the open lane along the sideline and made very good use of it.
11:34: James Franklin believes in delivering daggers – that's one of his best attributes as a gameday coach. He's not settling for field goals unless he has to.
9:39: Franklin had to settle for that field goal. Three-possession lead, everyone.
9:13: It is great to see Vanderbilt's defense pour the pressure on Glennon. This is the attitude of a next-level team, a team intent on doing bigger and better things in the future.
7:14: The one thing that's been missing in a generally strong performance for Vanderbilt today? Quality from Jordan Rodgers.
5:29 Vanderbilt's front seven is feasting on North Carolina's offensive line, and it's a glorious thing to watch for Commodores of all ages. So is a bowl blowout, which is what this team was quite capable of against NCSU.
3:38: When a possession starts at the opponent's 30 in the third quarter of a 17-point game, you're supposed to put the matter to rest. Vanderbilt has given North Carolina State one more opening, and it's the lack of a passing game which is primarily responsible for such a development.
0:59: Glennon is living on the edge on every play. He's throwing so many passes in traffic and is errant just as much as he's accurate. Good thing incoming NCSU head coach Dave Doeren is watching this game from a distance, and not between the headsets on the sideline.
0:00: That's a fantastic third quarter from the Dores' defense, one of the best quarters from that unit all season long, given the opponent. North Carolina State fields a passing attack that's a lot better than anything Kentucky, Auburn, Wake Forest, and other 2012 VU opponents possessed.
End Of Third Quarter Score: Vanderbilt 31, North Carolina State 17.
12:43 left, fourth quarter: See that decision by James Franklin? Ballsy moves like that one (with fourth-down conversions attached, of course) are why Vanderbilt fans rightly think the world of their head football coach. Love it!
11:39: Vanderbilt's passing approach has been short or really long, with not a lot in between. Deep-intermediate passing routes of 15 to 20 yards in the middle third of the field have not been a part of VU's approach, and it's hard to claim that this has been a sensible plan today.
9:29: If you want to heave deep balls on fourth and four, Wolfpack, go right on ahead. You clearly saw how well third- or fourth-and-four deep balls have worked in this game. Sheesh.
6:47: There's an intermediate pass, completed with poise and precision by Rodgers. Meanwhile, Rodgers was hit in the helmet by an NCSU player who launched himself into the hit and might have taken two full steps before hammering the Vanderbilt quarterback following his release. That was 15 yards for three different reasons, but no flag was thrown. Appalling.
5:11: Now, this game is fully done and dusted. Nine wins in 2012, a bowl blowout, and a full head of steam into 2013 for the Good Ship Commodore. This wasn't a masterpiece; it was aided by gobs of North Carolina State miscues. Nevertheless, the defense was legitimately great in the second half. The running game produced high marks. The attitude of this team was exactly what it should be; accordingly, Vanderbilt delivered the result it should have expected today.
0:00: Does Vanderbilt have to prove that it can beat the big boys in the SEC East? Sure. One step at a time, though: The 2012 football season in Nashville was and is and always will be a raging success, a giddy romp on the road to greater (hoped-for) riches in 2013.
Final Score: Vanderbilt 38, North Carolina State 24.