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Deserving end for Johnson, Commodores

12/31/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, his staff and the Commodores' players had worked too hard to have this season end with the thud that was heard around Nashville for much of October and November.

The 5-0 start that became one of the most compelling stories in college football the first month of the season seemed like a distant memory ... until Wednesday in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

The resourceful Commodores harkened back to the form that allowed them to reel off five straight victories to open the season and won their first bowl game since 1955 -- a dramatic 16-14 victory over No. 24-ranked Boston College.

Fittingly, Vanderbilt won without scoring an offensive touchdown. Offense has been a problem for the Commodores all season. But they won the battle of special teams, stayed aggressive on defense and made the key plays on defense when they had to make them.

They somehow got away from that recipe for success in losing six of their last seven games to end the regular season.

But on Wednesday in front of their home fans in Nashville, they weren't going to be denied.

Myron Lewis' interception in the final minutes sealed the win, giving the Commodores (7-6) their first winning season since 1982. Equally big was redshirt freshman T.J. Greenstone's stop on fourth-and-1 midway through the third quarter.

Punter Brett Upson kept Boston College pinned deep all game with his rugby-style punts, and the Commodores' only touchdown came when one of Upson's punts hit the Eagles' Paul Anderson and was recovered in the end zone by freshman Sean Richardson.

And then there was Bryant Hahnfeldt, who calmly drilled a 45-yard field goal with 3:26 left for the winning points.

The only downer for the Commodores was their brilliant junior cornerback D.J. Moore announcing after the game that he was indeed leaving school early and turning pro. It was a memorable way for Moore to go out. He fought through a painful sprained ankle he suffered in the first half and never missed a beat.

The reality is that this has been building for several years at Vanderbilt. Johnson has upgraded the talent. His staff is outstanding, and these guys believe.

Even with Moore leaving for the NFL, there's a lot of young talent in the program, making the future a bright one.

And winning a bowl game will only help matters as Johnson and his assistants hit the recruiting trail in January.

The next step is ramping up the offense, but the Commodores proved Wednesday they know how to win, and more importantly, have the fortitude to fight back from a disappointing finish to the regular season and make history.

In unison, let's hear it one final time in 2008: Show your gold!