Vandy celebrates! (VM-Stan Jones)
It's a new day for Vanderbilt football. Vanderbilt beat North Carolina State 38-24 in front of a mostly Black and Gold clad crowd of 55,801 at LP Field. A quick glance at the box score without seeing the final score and you might think the Wolfpack dominated. But upon further review you'll discover some important game factors in the turnover department and in Zac Stacy's rushing total.
Yes, the Wolfpack had 24 first downs to Vanderbilt's 17. Yes, State gained 424 total yards to Vandy's paltry 225. Vanderbilt, however, won the stat that mattered the most; points. Five forced turnovers and a riverboat gamblers mentality in which the Commodores went for it on fourth down four times, making three first downs-- were instrumental in overcoming the Wolfack offensive onslaught. 107 hard earned rushing yards by Zac Stacy also played a factor.
As hard as yards were to come by for the 'Dores, Vanderbilt got off to great start driving 65 yards for a score in its opening drive. Vanderbilt which was aided by an offsides penalty, found itself with a first-and-goal situation at the Wolfpack five. On first down Jordan Rodgers found Chris Boyd for a reception left side of the end zone. The play was initially called incomplete but upon review the Vandy partisan crowd roared its approval as touchdown was signaled and the Commodores led 7-0 with 9:51 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter the Commodore defense set up the offense for another score. Linebacker Darreon Herring forced a fumble which was recovered by Kenny Ladler and and returned to the NC State 27. Running the wildcat, Zac Stacy found pay dirt from six yards out in a drive in which he carried the ball on all four plays. The score put Vandy up 14-0 with 10:08 to go in the initial quarter.
Trailing 14-0, the Wolfpack finally found the end zone with a 11 play, 84 yard drive that was culminated by a 1-yard scoring run to the left side by Tony Creecy. During that drive Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon completed a 28-yard pass that put his team deep in Vandy territory.
On the ensuing Vanderbilt possession after the NC State score, Vanderbilt got a fine kickoff return by Brian Kimbrow to the Wolfpack 48. After a 15-yard personal foul penalty by State was tacked on, Vandy found itself in great position again at the Wolfpack 32. Following several more wildcat plays by Stacy, Wesley Tate ran the ball in from 6-yards out to give his team a 21-7 lead with 3:47 to go in the half.
North Carolina State refused to go down easily. A a 94-yard kick off return by Tobais Palmer after Vandy's score pulled the Wolfpack back to within seven at 21-14 with 3:35 to go in the half.
Vandy responded to the State score with a drive that stalled at its own 44. However, on the first play of the ensuing Wolfpack possession, Eric Samuels intercepted a Glennon pass and returned the ball to the State 18-yard line. The Commodore offense was sitting pretty yet again. Vandy capitalized on the Samuel's pick when Jordan Rodgers found Jordan Matthews for a 18-yard score. Vanderbilt led 28-14 with 54 seconds left in the half and the Wolfpack would go on to miss a field goal as time expired in the half.
Vanderbilt's defense continued to provide excellent opportunities for the offense in the second half. On State's first drive of the third quarter Trey Wilson intercepted another Glennon pass- this time in the end zone- and returned the ball to the NC State 35 before being leveled by one of his own players. Vandy's drive would stall at the Wolfpack 12 but Carey Spear's 30-yard field goal gave Vandy a seemingly comfortable 31-14 lead with 9:39 left in the quarter.
The two teams would exchange blows defensively through much of the remainder of the third quarter but the beginning of the fourth quarter found the Wolfpack threatening at the Vandy 7-yard-line. However, the Vandy defense held yet again and forced a field goal attempt which was made by kicker Niklas Sade. NC State had pulled to within two scores at 31-17 with almost a complete quarter to go.
The Vandy defense provided another gift to the VU offense with about 10 minutes left in the game. NC State faced a fourth-and-4 situation at its own 44 and chose to go for it. However, a great play by Andre Hal to force an incompletion gave the Vandy offense the ball at the State 44. Vanderbilt, running still more wildcat, promptly drove to the State 15 where Jordan Rodgers faked a handoff and then ran for a score. Vandy now led 38-17 and all that was left was to determine the final score of Vanderbilt's bowl victory.
North Carolina State's Glennon completed a 19-yard scoring pass to Rashard Smith to tally the final points of the game. With the extra point, the game score would be final with Vanderbilt winning 38-24.
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin was happy for the victory and thought his team did what it had to do to win.
"I didn't think we played a great game, but we made plays when we needed to, especially on defense," said Franklin. "They moved the ball on us, but the turnovers were great erasers."
Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who completed two touchdown passes while only passing for 88 yards, credited the defense setting up the team for victory.
"I'm going to do what this team needs me to do to win," said Rodgers. "Today, it started with the guys on defense. They gave us an unbelievable amount of opportunities, and the way they played today really dictated the game."
Vanderbilt improves to 9-4 with the bowl victory. The nine wins are the Commodores' most since the 1915 season. Vandy is now 2-0 all time in the Music City Bowl and 3-2-1 overall in its bowl history. North Carolina State fell to 7-6 with the loss.