Jan. 4, 2014
Who ever said Vanderbilt fans won't support their football team?
Certainly not anyone who saw the black and gold turnout in Birmingham during the last few days or at Legion Field Saturday, where an estimated 30,000 Anchored Down black and gold clad fanatics dominated the crowd of 42,717.
"Vanderbilt fans show up for bowl games," said Coach James Franklin, who's magnificent leadership has much to do with the buzz. Future bowl deliberations need to remember this.
Vandy fans jammed the site of Coach Franklin's Thursday night call-in show, had a nice turnout in very cold weather for Friday afternoon's downtown pep rally and saw 1,800 folks crammed into the alumni department's pregame tailgate tent.
Vanderbilt sold nearly 14,000 bowl tickets through its own box office and it was obvious at least that many other Commodore alumni found ducats through other venues. It was an impressive sight. The university's far-flung alumni enjoys the big events.
They saw an exciting, nerve-racking game that felt like a boxing match much of the time. In the early rounds, the 'Dores appeared to be setting up Houston for a knockout punch, streaking to a 24-0 lead at a point-a-minute clip.
How dominating was it?
BBVA Compass Bowl MVP Jordan Matthews set a bowl record for receiving yardage (143) and tied another with two touchdown catches before intermission and didn't get another catch the rest of the game as the Commodores suddenly found themselves on the ropes in a crazy third quarter.
Franklin joked afterwards to an over-flowing media room that the ESPN brass had slipped him a note saying ratings were sagging and try to make the game more interesting.
Not really but the game did get real interesting when the Cougars piled up 309 third quarter yards of total offense after a stellar Vanderbilt defensive gem limited their high-powered offense to a paltry 22 yards in the entire first half.The 24 third-quarter Houston points were the most allowed all year by VU in a 15-minute span.
In the dark days of the past, this huge momentum switch might have doomed the Commodores and their faithful but while pulses no doubt quickened, this is a new era and many were waiting for a big Vanderbilt play to turn things around.
They got it when Jerron Seymour bolted for 38 yards out of the Wildcat formation early in the fourth, followed in bing-bing fashion by Brian Kimbrow runs of 12 and 21 yards to pay dirt. Bingo!
"This team knows how to win," Franklin reminded his team and told the media for the umteenth time. Yes it does!
It has won 18 games in the last two years, won back-to-back bowl games for the first time and has established other milestones during the last two seasons, some dating back to the Teddy Roosevelt days.
As the team gathered at midfield to accept the championship trophy, fans chanted FRANKLIN-FRANKLIN-FRANKLIN but when James got the microphone, he told the stadium that this is about the players and their tremendous work ethic and attitude.
We will miss this senior class; the Walker Mays, Kenny Ladlers, Andre Hals, Wesley Johnsons, some guy named Matthews and a host of other unselfish winners. Their legacy is not lost on Commodore Nation, which wishes these young men the very best and can't wait until next season.