2008 Music City Bowl: Vandy stuns Boston College, 16-14, claims first bowl win in 53 years

It’s almost fitting that Vanderbilt’s home is Nashville, Tennessee, where everyone sings like they’re the next big thing in country music. Nashville is also home to the Music City Bowl, where Vanderbilt’s Commodores came of age on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2008) faster than the bluegrass birth of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys in the Deep South.

Vanderbilt entered the Music City Bowl as an underdog to the Boston College Eagles, who ranked sixth in the nation in fewest yards allowed and first in the country in turnovers. The Commodores, despite being limited to 200 yards and only 1 conversion in 15 third down attempts, left the stadium with a 16-14 victory.

Although far from the exploits and early triumphs of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Vanderbilt’s contingent of southern players made their own important history.

1) They used a 45-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter to win a bowl game for the first time in 53 years, recalling Vanderbilt’s 25-13 win over Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl.

2) They took the overalls off their backs, a 28-year drought, the longest in the SEC, since they last played in a bowl game.

3) He posted his first winning season (7-6) since the start of the drought 28 years ago.

4) They snapped Boston College’s 8-game winning streak in bowl games, 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 were playing in a bowl game for the 10th year in a row. The Eagle, who flew in a straight line for 8 straight bowl victories, now has a broken wing, thanks to the Commodores.

Now they can legitimately take offense when their competitors, the media and fans refer to them as “basement dwellers” and “the worst team in the SEC.” Let’s see now, which SEC teams lost bowl games this year? Oh yes, it was Alabama and South Carolina. Greetings Commodores! This is America, we love the underdogs who rise to the top, who, in the sweat of their brow, rise in their boots and win.

How they did it? With special teams they play. Junior Brett Upson averaged 42+ yards on 9 punts with a 58-yard long punt; he was named the game’s most valuable player. Senior Bryant Hahnfeldt had field goals of 28 and 42 yards before his game-winning 45-yard kick and a lifetime of glory (what a way to end a college playing career).

Freshman defensive back Sean Richardson accounted for Vanderbilt’s only touchdown when he fell on a punt that bounced off the left knee of Boston College’s Paul Anderson in the third quarter. Officials ruled it a touchdown, and replay review validated the call. For Sean Richardson, it was all about being in the right place at the right time (aka luck).

After the game, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson was elated: “I think everyone can tell we’re pretty happy. We’re thrilled to win the Music City Bowl right here in Nashville, our hometown. We kept our composition and made some big plays when we had to. It may not have been the prettiest win in the world, but now it is for us.”

Well said, Bobby. It’s refreshing to find someone in sports today with some sense of gratitude. We currently have too many smug superstars with more money and ego than humility and gratitude for their good fortune.

The Commodores finished 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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