Vanderbilt's Top 10 moments of the decade
This was a memorable decade for Vanderbilt, arguably the best in its history, which started with the hiring of James Franklin.
Overall, the Commodores were 53-72 and 22-58 in the SEC. They had back-to-back 9-win seasons (2012 and 2013), delivered 15 draft picks to the NFL and beat Tennessee 5 times.
Here are Vanderbilt’s top 10 moments of the decade:
10. BBVA Compass Bowl win in 2014
As rumors swirled over James Franklin’s job future, Vanderbilt gave up a 24-point lead, then had Patton Robinette throw 2 50-yard touchdown passes to Jordan Matthews as the Commodores beat Houston 41-24 in the BBVA Compass Bowl to end the 2013 season.
9. Music City Bowl win in 2012
The 38-24 win over NC State was monumental only if you consider that it delivered the first 9-win season since World War I. It was also the 7th win in a row for Commodores, who recovered from a 2-4 start to win the most games since 1915.
The Commodores forced 5 turnovers, and RB Zac Stacy ran for 107 yards to be named the bowl MVP.
8. Derek Mason’s emotional post-game speech after Missouri win in 2019
Leading up to Vanderbilt’s upset win over Missouri in 2019, there were a lot of questions about Mason’s future, and if he would return in 2020. The coach largely deflected those questions and tried to maintain internal focus. But after the win over No. 22 Missouri, 21-14, Mason let loose a post-game rant for the ages.
Do you think Derek Mason is fired up? pic.twitter.com/JBmVv19nMz
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) October 19, 2019
7. Franklin’s 1st win over a ranked opponent
Thanks to 17 4th-quarter points, Vanderbilt upended No. 15 Georgia in Nashville in 2013, the 1st win over a ranked opponent for Franklin as a head coach.
It was the program’s 1st win over a ranked opponent overall since 2008, when the Commodores beat No. 13 Auburn in Nashville. This was also Vanderbilt’s 1st victory over Georgia in Nashville since 1991, which stopped a 6-game skid to the Bulldogs.
6. A stunning defeat of the Vols in 2013
Despite 4 turnovers, Vanderbilt beat Tennessee for the 2nd consecutive season, 14-10. It was the 1st time the Commodores won consecutive games over the Vols since a 6-straight streak from 1920-26.
The game might be most remembered for Patton Robinette’s fake jump pass turned 5-yard touchdown run to clinch the win.
5. First win in The Swamp since 1945
The 2013 win at Florida was another historic accomplishment, and the 34-17 win over the Gators got out of hand quickly. The Commodores led 17-3 at halftime. It snapped a 22-game losing streak for Vanderbilt in the series and set up the Commodores for a bowl berth.
Vanderbilt’s 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery keyed the victory. That’s how the Commodores could overcome having just 12 1st downs and 187 yards, compared with Florida’s 26 1st downs and 353 yards.
4. First SEC road win under Mason
In a stunning end at Sanford Stadium, Vanderbilt got a late touchdown from Khari Blassingame and a ferocious 4th down stop from LB Zach Cunningham to upset Georgia 17-16 in 2016.
Mason had lost 9 games on the road in the SEC. For Vanderbilt it was only the 3rd win over Georgia in the past 22 meetings. Arguably the biggest play of the game came on 4th down on Georgia’s final drive when Cunningham — who finished with 19 tackles — dropped Isaiah McKenzie to preserve the victory.
3. Derek Mason hire
In January 2014, Vanderbilt hired Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason to replace James Franklin. Mason, 44, took over a program that went 24-15 record in Franklin’s 3 seasons. Mason came highly recommended from a career that included 1 NFL and 9 college jobs.
Mason was the 5th African-American head coach in SEC history, after Franklin, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips and former Mississippi State coach coach Sylvester Croom.
Mason at the time was mentioned for open jobs including Louisvlle, Washington, Army and Connecticut. That’s because since 2011, Mason helped Stanford reach the Rose Bowl the previous 2 years. Stanford was 3rd in the NCAA in rushing defense (89.4 yards) and 10th in scoring defense (19) despite facing 7 ranked opponents in 2013.
2. Huge upset of Vols in 2012
With a 41-18 win over Tennessee, Vanderbilt snapped a 14-game skid against Tennessee at home, with its 1st win in Nashville since 1982 and the most points scored against the Vols since a 51-7 win in 1923. For more context, Vandy had just 1 win over UT in the previous 29 meetings.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was fired the next day. The Vols loss led to 3 consecutive losing seasons for the 1st time since 1909-11, and they missed a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the 1st time since 1976-1978.
That win was the 1st of 5 Vandy had over Tennessee this decade.
1. James Franklin hire
The hire on Dec. 17, 2010 started a course that would deliver some of the best seasons in Vanderbilt history.
James Franklin, an offensive coordinator at Maryland, was hired away from seemingly being in line to succeed Ralph Friedgen. It ended a whirlwind period of coaching turnover on the West End, which included Robbie Caldwell briefly running the program after Bobby Johnson unexpectedly retired and resigned.