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2008 Music City Bowl – Vandy Upsets Boston College, 16-14, Claims First Bowl Victory in 53 Years
It’s almost fitting and right that Vanderbilt’s home is Nashville, Tennessee, where everyone sings like they’re the next big country music star. Nashville is also home to the Music City Bowl, where the Vanderbilt Commodores came of age on New Year’s Eve (12-31-08) faster than Lester Flatt, Earl Scrugg and the Foggy Mountain Boys who birthed bluegrass in the Deep South.
Vanderbilt entered the Music City Bowl as an underdog against the Boston College Eagles, who ranked 6th in the nation in fewest yards allowed and tops in the nation in turnovers. The Commodores, despite being held to 200 yards and just 1 conversion on 15 third down attempts, left the stadium with a 16-14 victory.
Although far from the heroics and early triumphs of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Vanderbilt’s Southern contingent of players made some important history of their own.
1) They used Bryant Hanfelt’s 45-yard field goal with 3:26 left in the 4th quarter to win the bowl game for the first time in 53 years, reminiscent of Vanderbilt’s 25-13 victory over Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl.
2) They snapped the monkey off their back, a 28-year drought – the SEC’s longest – since they last played in a bowl game.
3) Recorded their first winning season (7-6) since the drought began 28 years ago.
4) They snapped Boston College’s 8-game bowl game streak, the longest in the nation.
5) They cost Boston College a chance to finish with at least 10 wins for the third straight season. The Eagles played in a bowl game for the 10th year in a row. The Eagle, who flew straight and true for 8 straight bowl wins, now has a broken wing, thanks to the Commodores.
Now they can legitimately take umbrage when their competitors, media and fans call them “baseballs” and “the worst team in the SEC.” Let’s see now, which SEC teams lost bowl games this year? Oh yeah, it was Alabama and South Carolina. Greetings Commodores! This is America, we love the underdogs who rise to the top, who sweat it out by their bootstraps and win.
How did they do it? Play with special teams. Junior Brett Upson averaged 42+ yards on 9 punts with a long punt of 58 yards; he was named the game’s most valuable player. Senior Bryant Hanfelt made field goals of 28 and 42 yards before making the game-winning 45-yarder and a lifetime of glory (what a way to end a college playing career).
Freshman defensive back Shawn Richardson accounted for Vanderbilt’s only touchdown when he fell on a snap that bounced off the left knee of Boston College’s Paul Anderson in the 3rd quarter. The officials ruled it a touchdown, and a replay review upheld the call. For Sean Richardson, it was all about being in the right place at the right time (sometimes known as luck).
After the game, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson gushed, “I guess everybody can tell we’re pretty happy. We’re thrilled to win the Music City Bowl here in Nashville in our hometown. We kept our composure and made some big plays when we had to. Maybe it wasn’t the most beautiful victory in the world, but now it is for us.”
Well said, Bobby. It’s refreshing to find someone in sports today with a little sense of gratitude. Right now we have too many self-important superstars with more money and ego than humility and gratitude for their good fortune.
The Commodores ended their winning season with a 7-6 record, while Boston College had to settle for a 9-5 record.
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley
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