NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt used to be called the worst team in the Southeastern Conference. Cellar dwellers. The private school that just didn't belong in a power football league.
Vandy saves face
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, writes Chris Low. Blog
Vanderbilt won a bowl game for the first time in exactly 53 years, with Bryant Hahnfeldt kicking a 45-yard field goal with 3:26 left Wednesday for a 16-14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl.
Vandy hadn't even played in a bowl since 1982 -- the SEC's longest drought. The victory gave the Commodores (7-6) their first winning season since that season.
"I guess everybody can figure out we're pretty happy," coach Bobby Johnson said. "We're thrilled to win the Music City Bowl right here in Nashville in our hometown. ... We kept our composure and made some big plays when we had to. It may not have been the prettiest victory in the whole world, but it is for us now."
• Vanderbilt earned its first bowl victory since the 1955 Gator Bowl against Auburn. The Commodores improved to 7-6 and ended a 25-year streak of losing records.
• The loss stops Boston College's eight-game bowl win streak, which was the nation's longest active streak. Boston College falls to 8-2 during its current 10-year bowl streak, the longest in school history.
• This is the first time Vanderbilt has ever defeated an FBS opponent with nine wins at the time of the game (BC entered game 9-4).
• Vanderbilt won despite converting on just 1 of 15 third-down attempts. The difference in the game proved to be Boston College's three turnovers.
-- ESPN research
This is just the fourth time in the past 50 years that Vanderbilt has won seven games in a season. So maybe it was only appropriate that Hahnfeldt, a Nashville native who grew up only a few miles away from LP Field where this game was played, provided the winning margin.
"It's fantastic for Nashville," said Hahnfeldt, who tied his career-high with three field goals.
Boston College (9-5) had won eight straight bowl games, the nation's longest active streak.
Playing in a bowl for the 10th straight season, the Eagles also missed a chance at finishing with at least 10 wins for a third straight season. BC lost despite giving up only 200 yards and allowing Vandy to convert only one of its 15 third downs.
"Congratulations to Bobby for the bowl win," Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said.
The Eagles got the ball twice after Hahnfeldt's third field goal. They had to punt the first time, then Myron Lewis picked off Dominique Davis with 1:36 left after having been beaten for the TD that put Boston College up 14-13.
"I felt like the game was over, and we won it," Lewis said after his interception.
Vanderbilt had some of its stars of seasons past cheering from the sideline in Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and Chicago Bears teammates Chris Williams and Earl Bennett. PGA Tour golfer Brandt Snedeker also was on hand hoping for his alma mater's first bowl win since beating Auburn 25-13 on Dec. 31, 1955, at the Gator Bowl.
They didn't see much offense against a Boston College defense that came in ranked sixth in the nation in yards allowed and tops in the country in turnovers.
Vandy scored its lone touchdown when freshman Sean Richardson fell on a punt that bounced off the left knee of BC's Paul Anderson with 10:35 left in the third.
Officials huddled, then ruled it a touchdown and a replay review upheld the decision.
"Paul tried getting out of the way there," Jagodzinski said. "We need to have a call from the guy in the back end to get away from it when it bounces, and it hit him. That's how close it is."
Vanderbilt played musical chairs at quarterback, giving redshirt freshman Larry Smith his first career start in the program's biggest game in decades. Chris Nickson also played, and Mackenzi Adams even got in for one play -- on which he was roughed by Eagles linebacker Mark Herzlich, the Atlantic Coast Conference's defensive player of the year, to help set up Hahnfeldt's winning kick.
Herzlich said he was just trying to make a play.
"Either way, it wasn't deliberately late," Herzlich said.
But Eagles end Jim Ramella also was flagged for a face mask on that game-winning drive for Vanderbilt. The two penalties provided 30 of the 48 yards in that drive.
The difference came from Vandy punter Brett Upson. The bowl MVP averaged 42.6 yards on nine punts with a long of 58. A Vanderbilt defense that ranked second in the SEC for interceptions had two more picks for the game's only turnovers.
Davis, in only his third career start, put the Eagles up 14-13 with a 55-yard TD pass to Colin Larmond Jr. with 6:38 remaining.
"We've got a bunch of young guys playing," Jagodzinski said.
The Commodores opened by scoring field goals of 42 and 26 yards from Hahnfeldt for a 6-0 lead. But the Eagles led 7-6 at halftime thanks to Davis' 4-yard TD pass to Montel Harris with 1:27 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles lost center Matt Tennant to an injured left elbow early in the second and punt returner Rich Gunnel to an injury. Vanderbilt got its best player hurt a play later. All-SEC cornerback D.J. Moore helped break up Davis' pass to Ifeanyi Momah, and safety Ryan Hamilton intercepted the ball at the Vandy 15. But Momah rolled over Moore's left ankle, and he limped to the sideline.
Moore got his ankle taped and played in the second half but couldn't finish. The junior said after the game he would leave early for the NFL draft.
It was over when... Myron Lewis picked off Dominique Davis with 1:36 left to seal Vanderbilt's first bowl win since 1955.
Gameball goes to... the Commodores. After the long wait, everyone associated with Vandy deserves credit for the bowl win.
Stat of the game... 3, 0. The Commodores won the turnover game, losing none and picking up three from the Eagles.