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2008 Music City Bowl – Vandy Upsets Boston College, 16-14, Claims First Bowl Victory in 53 Years

It’s almost fitting that Vanderbilt’s home is Nashville, Tennessee, where everyone sings like he’s the next big country music star. Nashville is also home to the Music City Bowl, where the Vanderbilt Commodores reached New Year’s Eve (12-31-08) faster than Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys’ bluegrass birth in the Deep South .

Vanderbilt entered the Music City Bowl as an underdog to the Boston College Eagles, who were ranked 6th in the nation in fewest yards allowed and top in the nation in turnovers. The Commodores, despite being held 200 yards and only one conversion on 15 third attempts, left the stadium with a 16-14 victory.

Though a far cry from the heroism and early triumphs of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Vanderbilt’s contingent of Southern players made their own significant history.

1) They used a 45-yard goal from Bryant Hahnfeldt with 3:26 left in the 4th quarter to win a bowling game for the first time in 53 years, recalling Vanderbilt’s 25-13 victory over Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl.

2) They got rid of the monkey, a 28-year drought — the longest in the SEC — since their last bowl game.

3) They recorded their first winning season (7-6) since the drought began 28 years ago.

4) They snapped Boston College’s 8-game bowl winning streak, the longest in the nation.

5) They cost Boston College a chance to finish with at least 10 wins for a 3rd straight season. The Eagles were bowling for the 10th consecutive year. The Eagle, which has flown straight and straight for 8 straight bowl victories, now has a broken wing, thanks to the Commodores.

Now they can rightfully take umbrage when their competitors, the media and fans call them “cellar dwellers” and “the worst team in the SEC.” Now let’s see, which SEC teams have lost bowl games this year? Oh yes, it was Alabama and South Carolina. Hello Commodores! This is America, we love the underdogs who rise to the top, who, by the sweat of their brow, pull themselves up by their boots and win.

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

Freshman defensive back Sean Richardson accounted for Vanderbilt’s lone touchdown when he fell on a punt that bounced off the left knee of Boston College’s Paul Anderson in the 3rd quarter. Officials ruled it a touchdown and review of the replay upheld the call. For Sean Richardson, it was about being in the right place at the right time (also sometimes called luck).

After the game, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson exclaimed, “I guess everyone can understand that we’re pretty happy. We’re thrilled to win the Music City Bowl here in our hometown of Nashville. We kept our cool and played hard when we had to. It might not have been the greatest victory in the world, but it’s for us now.”

Well said Bobby. It’s refreshing to find someone in the sport today with a bit of gratitude. We currently have too many important superstars with more money and ego than humility and gratitude for their good fortune.

The Commodores ended their winning season at 7-6 while Boston College had to settle for a 9-5 record.

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

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