Dec. 31, 2012
Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt 38, NC State 24
The media room inside LP Field was standing room only as James Franklin explained for the umteenth time the secret to success: "its amazing what can be accomplished with a positive attitude."
That seems way too simple to most folks but then again, most of us can't maintain a positive attitude the way the dynamic coach has trained and expects from his Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl champions.
Maybe he's on to something.
If Hollywood ever decides remake "It's a Wonderful Life", give James Franklin Jimmy Stewart's role. It's one he has played much of his own life, finding the positives in situations where history has usually been unkind. Dale Carnegie would need to cheer up to run with the second-year Commodore coach.
The Commodores think positive. Ask fifth-year senior defensive end Johnell Thomas, who's huge fourth quarter stop of North Carolina State's Shadrach Thornton on a critical third-down play kept the Wolfpack from howling.
"I think the turning point of our year came after our Florida game when Coach Franklin met with some of the seniors and outlined the rest of our season," Thomas said in the happy locker room. "We realized after that meeting we were better than what we were showing and what we could accomplish if we worked hard and stuck together."
What happened was a seven game winning streak, longest in the SEC, and a nine-win season, the most by a Commodore team in 97 years. The positive vibes spurred Vanderbilt attendance to a 15% boost in attendance, also best in the SEC this year, and allowed Vanderbilt to sell out its original allotment to this bowl game in about three days.
Franklin is teaching Commodore Nation as he teaches the team. Despite chilly temperatures that forced Commodore fans to go deep into their cold weather gear, there was far more black and gold prominently worn than even last season.
Vandy fans snapped up over 10,000 metallic gold shakers nearly three hours prior to kickoff. Fans showed up early, forming a robust entry for the team's "Dore Alley" stadium arrival. The south side of LP Field became Vandyville East and over 500 jammed into the the alumni's sold out tailgate event.
This energy is not lost upon outsiders or even veteran Vandy fans, who look at pride and some astonishment at the expanding Commodore following that gets larger with each passing week. It is indeed a Wonderful Life.
The Commodores never trailed today despite what Franklin said didn't strike him as a "great game".
Although the Vanderbilt offense was out-gained by 199 total yards, the defense carried the day with five turnovers. Bowl MVP Zac Stacy (a.k.a. Zac the Ripper) shredded the Wolfpack defense for nearly half of the 'Dores output, much from the Wildcat formation where he seems so comfortable.
We ring out the old year with fond memories and anticipate a future that promises to be even more wonderful. James Franklin says this is the "Brand New Vanderbilt" and the first game is only eight short months away.
Happy New Year! Anchor Down, Commodore Nation!