NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southeastern Conference is so strong that now even Vanderbilt, yes Vandy, is winning like the Commodores haven’t in nearly a century.
Jordan Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Vanderbilt Commodores capped their best season since 1915 Monday by beating North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl.
The Commodores finished 9-4 for their best record since going 9-1 in 1915, and it’s only the third time the smallest and only private university in the Southeastern Conference has won as many as nine games in a season. They also finished with seven straight wins, their longest streak since winning eight in 1948.
Vanderbilt forced a season-high five turnovers, including four in the first half, and turned those into 17 points.
N.C. State (7-6) wrapped up the season under interim coach Dana Bible snapping a two-game bowl winning streak. The Wolfpack had their fifth game this season with at least four turnovers, and that helped wipe out a 424-225 advantage in total offense.
This was the 27th bowl all-time for N.C. State, and the Wolfpack had every coach working this game except Tom O’Brien, who was fired at the end of the regular season. But a team that ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in turnovers couldn’t overcome its own mistakes, which also included a bad shotgun snap that cost the Wolfpack 21 yards on the opening drive.
Vandy coach James Franklin got a contract extension a month ago for guiding the Dores to a second straight bowl game for the first time in school history. Franklin didn’t change anything that got his Commodores here as he went for it on fourth down, used the wildcat repeatedly and even had senior running back Zac Stacy attempt a halfback pass to Rodgers.
The Commodores took control from the opening drive, moving 65 yards for a touchdown that put them ahead to stay. Officials initially called Chris Boyd out of bounds, but review showed the sophomore got the toes of his right foot down for a 5-yard TD pass from Rodgers.
Commodores safety Kenny Ladler picked off a Glennon pass at the North Carolina State 45 for Vanderbilt’sfifth interception in three games.
It was just a sign of what was to come in the first half. Johnell Thomas stripped Wolfpack freshman Shadrach Thornton of the ball late in the first quarter, and Derreon Herring stripped N.C. State tight end Asa Watson of the ball after a nice catch. Ladler recovered that ball.
And safety Eric Samuels intercepted Glennon with 54 seconds left in the first half.
Vanderbilt finally converted the third turnover as Stacy, Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher, carried four straight times with the last three off the wildcat. Stacy scored on a 6-yard run with 10:08 left in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Tony Creecy scored on a 1-yard TD run for the Wolfpack. But Vanderbilt stuck with the wildcat, and Wesley Tate scored on a 7-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead with 3:47 left in the second quarter.
Tobias Palmer, who struggled catching the ball on his first two kickoff returns, caught the next cleanly and ran untouched 94 yards for a TD to keep the Wolfpack within 21-14.
But Vanderbilt led 28-14 at halftime when Rodgers tossed his second TD pass, a screen that Jordan Matthews took 18 yards to the end zone. That matched the most points the Commodores had scored in any of their five previous bowl games. Rodgers ran for a 15-yard TD with 5:11 left that sealed the victory.