Vandy making believers
Posted: Monday, October 6, 2008 7:33 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores returned to the field for a curtain call, to celebrate with their excited and a bit stunned fans, not wanting the moment to end.
It’s time to believe.
These Commodores are rolling back not just the years, but the decades at a school that was a charter member of the mighty Southeastern Conference, but whose best football was played in the first 40 years of the 20th century.
Now they’re 5-0 for the first time since a World War II-shortened schedule in 1943 after Saturday night’s 14-13 win over Auburn.
The victory moved the Commodores to No. 13 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday.
They are perched atop the SEC’s Eastern Division, and they will visit Mississippi State next with a chance to match the 6-0 start by the 1928 team coached by Dan McGugin, the school’s winningest coach.
Coach Bobby Johnson isn’t ready to look past the next game, not after seeing a 4-0 start in 2005 with Jay Cutler disintegrate into another losing season in a streak that currently stands at 25 straight years.
“I don’t know where this one ranks. Back when Dan McGugin was the coach, his teams beat teams 150-0. We’ll gather all of that information up at the end of the season and see how we do. We still have a lot of work. We can improve in so many ways and we’re going to try and get better,” Johnson said.
“We need to get better. We’ll see better offenses, and we’ll see better defenses probably.”
These Commodores are pretty good right now and 3-0 in the SEC for only the third time ever and the first since 1950. They snapped a 13-game skid to Auburn (4-2, 2-2) with their first win since the 1955 Gator Bowl.
Vandy showed off its toughness after Auburn, which came in ranked 13th, scored 13 points in about a minute in the first quarter.
Ben Tate ran for 108 yards, and the Tigers appeared ready to romp as they outgained Vandy 126-17 in the first quarter alone.
Even Johnson said the first quarter was a little scary.
But the Commodores stifled Auburn’s new spread offense the rest of the way, limiting the Tigers to 4 yards rushing in the second half and 11 yards total in the fourth quarter.
Five different Commodores had sacks, and Myron Lewis intercepted Chris Todd’s pass with 2:07 left to seal the victory.
“We stay aggressive,” Johnson said. “We don’t get into a shell because someone is moving the ball. We kept going at them, and I think it paid off.”
Wes Byrum’s missed extra point off the right upright after Todd’s second TD pass wound up the difference. The Tigers also hurt themselves with 11 penalties — one off a season-high.
“We just need to find some answers on offense and until we do that, it doesn’t make a lot of difference,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
Mackenzi Adams came off the bench for Vandy when Chris Nickson aggravated his injured throwing shoulder in the second quarter, and he threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
He also ran for 54 yards as Vandy outgained Auburn 263-208.
Adams had split the work in practice and was ready.
“I’m just glad we came out and performed and played hard just like I knew we would,” Adams said. “It’s a lot of fun playing in that environment.”
Tuberville said Adams played well.
“Him sprinting out was a big key to the game. He threw it on the money on the run. They made plays. It’s not like we didn’t give them anything,” Tuberville said.
The sold-out stadium capped a week of national attention on the SEC’s only private university, and the Commodores are enjoying showing how hard they’ve worked and how much depth they have.
Vandy linebacker Chris Marve said he has an idea what the 5-0 start means to the Commodores’ fans.
“I’m glad they’re supporting us, and I hope we can keep giving them a reason to support us,” Marve said.
The Commodores admit they loved hearing all the noise coming from their own stadium.
“We’re going to enjoy this now,” senior receiver George Smith said, “but we’re going back to work.”