Saturday, August 23, 2008


Know how we said Vanderbilt's capable of pulling off big upsets? Coach Bobby Johnson has four in the past three seasons, and all of them were on the road:

2005: Vanderbilt 28, Arkansas 24 (Fayetteville)
This one had all the makings of a moral victory, with the Commodores playing hard and staying close, then running out of gas in the third quarter and falling behind 24-13. But in the fourth quarter, QB Jay Cutler tossed a pair of TDs to Marlon White and Vandy got out of Fayetteville with a huge upset. Oh, and those two freshmen running backs sitting on the Razorbacks bench were Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

2005: Vanderbilt 28, Tennessee 24 (Knoxville)
Vanderbilt hadn't beaten Tennessee since, you got it, the magical Hall of Fame Bowl season of 1982. Plenty of moral victories, but no win on the scoreboard, and this one appeared to be no different. The Commodores led at halftime 21-14, then trailed 24-21 with minutes remaining in the game. Jay Cutler's TD pass to Earl Bennett gave Vandy the lead, but the Vols went tearing down the field. We've seen this before. But then we saw something we haven't seen before: A Commodore freshman intercepting a Volunteer pass in the end zone to seal the victory.

2006: Vanderbilt 24, No. 16 Georgia 22 (Athens)
It looked like a classic moral victory. Vanderbilt scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to lead Georgia 21-13 in Athens. But in the fourth quarter, the Dawgs booted a field goal, their third of the game from inside the Commodore 10-yard line, then intercepted a Vandy pass and returned it for a touchdown. Suddenly, the Commodores trailed 22-21. But with the clock ticking, Chris Nickson led Vandy on a 15-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Bryan Hahnfeld's game-winning field goal.

2007: Vanderbilt 17, No. 6 South Carolina 6 (Columbia)
With QB MacKenzie Adams starting his first college game, the Commodores jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Then cornerback D.J. Moore, a South Carolina native snubbed by the Gamecocks, picked off a pair of passes and Coach Steve Spurrier cranked up his quarterback carousel. After the game, Spurrier was asked about his offensive line, which had struggled to protect the quarterback. "Well, we can't trade em," he said.

Sure, Vanderbilt has upset teams before. George McIntyre's Commodores beat Alabama in 1984 and tied Georgia in 1985 before getting fired. Watson Brown beat Florida in 1988, but that was a Galen Hall team suffering under the weight of probation. Brown beat LSU in 1990, but that was a Mike Archer team that had a losing record, and Brown was gone at the end of the season. Gerry DiNardo was a vast improvement, beating Georgia in Nashville in 1991 and then three years later humiliating the Eric Zeier/Terrell Davis/Hines Ward-led Bulldogs in Athens on homecoming. Then he put those wins on his resume and got the heck out of dodge.

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