NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt coach James Franklin kept rattling off how his Commodores had just posted the program's best season in nearly a century by finishing on a seven-game win streak capped by a victory in the Music City Bowl.
Yes, Vanderbilt now wins at football and wins big.
And Franklin says everybody better get used to it because this is just a taste of more to come from the smallest and only private university in the SEC.
"We're not going anywhere," an emotional Franklin said.
Jordan Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the defence forced a season-high five turnovers Monday as the Commodores beat North Carolina State 38-24. At 9-4, it's their best record since going 9-1 in 1915, and it's only the third time Vanderbilt has won as many as nine games in a season.
Vandy's winning streak, currently the best in the Southeastern Conference, is its longest since an eight-game run in 1948, and its 15 wins over the past two seasons is the program's best total since 1926 and 1927. Franklin said those dates mean it's been a very long time since the Commodores had won.
He credited the school for the program's success, citing the support he received in turning around the former SEC doormat.
"It's the university deciding to hire some psycho that nobody ever heard of and gave him a chance and an unbelievable group of guys that bought in and believed in everything that we asked them to do," Franklin said.
The Commodores matched the most points they'd ever scored in any of their previous five bowls by halftime with a 28-14 lead, and they turned those turnovers into 17 points. Rodgers threw for only 108 yards and ran four times, but he credited the defence for most of the hard work.
"The way our running game was going, the way our offensive line was blocking, didn't need me to do much," Rodgers said. "And I think I lined up at receiver almost as much as I did at quarterback, and that's because we had the numbers."
Interim coach Dana Bible ran N.C. State (7-6) after Tom O'Brien was fired at the end of the regular season. It was the Wolfpack's fifth game of the season with at least four turnovers, and it helped wipe out a 424-225 advantage in total offence.
Bible took the blame for two of the interceptions for being aggressive.
"We took the other approach," Bible said. "Again a Southeast Conference team, Southeast Conference talent, those type things. We weren't going to play it safe. We weren't going to play back on this team. We were going to be attacking on it, and if they made a play on it, more power to them."
This was the 27th bowl for N.C. State, which had won its last two post-season games. But they couldn't overcome mistakes that included a bad shotgun snap that cost the Wolfpack 21 yards on the opening drive.
The Commodores took control from the opening drive, moving 65 yards for a touchdown that put them ahead to stay. Officials initially called Chris Boyd out of bounds, but the video review showed the sophomore got the toes of his right foot down on a 5-yard TD pass from Rodgers.
Rodgers also found Jordan Matthews on a screen the receiver took 18 yards for a TD, while Stacy and Wesley Tate each scored TDs out of the wildcat. Carey Spear added a 30-yard field goal, and Rodgers capped Vanderbilt's scoring with a 15-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Commodores safety Kenny Ladler had the first interception and also recovered a fumble.
"It wasn't about going three-and-out," N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon said of the Wolfpack's struggles. "It was just a matter of turning the ball over."
Tony Creecy scored on a 1-yard TD run for the Wolfpack, Tobias Palmer returned a kickoff 94 yards for a TD, and Glennon connected with Rashard Smith on a 19-yard TD with 2:06 left.
"They were better today," N.C. State safety Earl Wolff said.
The game was so in control that even when something went wrong for Vanderbilt it didn't cost as so many mistakes in the past did. Trey Wilson picked off a Glennon pass on the opening drive of the third quarter only to be stopped by his own teammate, tackle Jared Morse, at the N.C. State 35.
Franklin immediately ran up to Morse yelling at the junior, making it clear that's not how it's done at Vandy these days.
"I'm sure there will be some pictures of that over the Internet," Morse said.
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