Tuesday, August 19, 2008


As the magical Hall of Fame Bowl season of 1982 faded into the past, the Commodores continued to stack up moral victories like firewood. In the ’90s, ten straight moral victories happened in the state of Tennessee. But in its last moral victory of the millennium, Vandy went down to the Swamp and wiped that smirk off Steve Spurrier's face. For a couple of minutes. Here's the ’ 90s:

1990 — Vanderbilt 13, No. 17 Ole Miss 14 (Nashville)
Few losses to Ole Miss are moral victories. But the Commodores had one of their worst teams (and that's saying something), Coach Watson Brown was being shown the door, and the Rebels were in the Top 20.

1991 — Vanderbilt 14, LSU 16 (Baton Rouge)

In his first trip to Tiger Stadium, Coach Gerry DiNardo dang near pulled off a huge upset. The next time he put on the headphones in Baton Rouge, he was the LSU coach.

1991 — Vanderbilt 22, No. 24 Auburn 24 (Nashville)

In hindsight, winning this one would have put the Commodores in a bowl. The close loss sparked them to four straight wins and a 5-6 record.

1992 — Vanderbilt 25, No. 18 Tennessee 29 (Nashville)

Another close loss to Tennessee, but there would be many more where this one came from.

1993 — Vanderbilt 10, No. 23 Auburn 14 (Nashville)
Again, a home win over Auburn would have put the Commodores in a bowl. Auburn finished with an undefeated season and expectations too high for new coach Terry Bowden to meet.

1995 — Vanderbilt 25, No. 11 Alabama 33 (Nashville, Tenn.)
The Commodores went toe to toe with another powerful Tide team, lead by Shaun Alexander, and fell by a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

1995 — Vanderbilt 7, No. 5 Tennessee 12 (Knoxville, Tenn.)

The Commodores kept sophomore Peyton Manning out of the end zone and actually led 7-6 late in the game.

1996 — Vanderbilt 7, No. 6 Notre Dame 14 (Nashville, Tenn.)

The Commodores switch to a pro-style offense but still have high-school-style offensive players. A Hail Mary gives Vandy a 7-7 tie late in the game, but Notre Dame drives down the field and wins as time expires.

1996 — Vanderbilt 21, No. 1 Florida 28 (Nashville, Tenn.)

No other SEC team would come closer to beating national champion Florida than the Commodore defense, which featured four future NFL players including Jamie Duncan, who returned a fumble for a touchdown.

1996 — Vanderbilt 7, No. 9 Tennessee 14 (Nashville, Tenn.)

Again, the Commodores keep Peyton Manning, now a junior, out of the end zone. The legendary Vols QB would finish with 163 yards passing, sub-50-percent completions and an interception.

1997 — Vanderbilt 6, No. 13 LSU 7 (Nashville, Tenn.)

In a game that would go down in moral victory history, the Commodores score as time expires and boldly decide to go for two and the win. But while drawing up a play, they're called for delay of game. And then another delay of game. So they line up to kick a long extra point and go to overtime. No good.

1997 — Vanderbilt 10, No. 9 Tennessee 17 (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Peyton Manning actually throws a TD pass, but his last game against the Commodores is also one of the worst of his career. He completes 12 of 27 for 159 yards and an interception.

1999 — Vanderbilt 6, No. 5 Florida 13 (Gainesville, Fla.)
Nobody expected Vandy to beat Florida in the Swamp, but they dang near did. The Gators couldn't score through the air, and the Commodores had the ball deep in Florida territory when time expired. Spurrier wasn't smiling, but one of his future quotes would ring true: "Vanderbilt doesn't have a talent problem; they have a winning problem."

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