Vanderbilt coach James Franklin carries the trophy after his team defeated North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl on Monday in Nashville.
NASHVILLE — The Southeastern Conference is so strong that now even Vanderbilt, yes Vandy, is winning like the Commodores haven't in nearly a century.
And coach James Franklin says everyone better get used to it.
Jordan Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the Vanderbilt Commodores capped their best season since 1915 by beating North Carolina State 38-24 on Monday in the Music City Bowl.
"We're not going anywhere," a smiling and teary Franklin said.
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 SEC has won as many as nine games in a season.
Vandy closed the season with seven straight wins for its longest streak since an eight-game run in 1948, and its 15 victories over the past two seasons is the program's best total since 1926 and 1927.
"When you're throwing out dates like 1915, you know that's a very, very, very long time," Franklin said. "Talk about these guys great-great grandparents. Seven-game win streak is the team's longest win streak since 1948, and we also currently have the longest win streak in the SEC, which we're very, very proud of."
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 by 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.
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 team here: 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 Mike Glennon pass at the N.C. State 45 for Vanderbilt's fifth 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 fumble.
And safety Eric Samuels intercepted Glennon with 54 seconds left in the first half.
Vanderbilt finally converted the third turnover. Stacy, Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher, carried four straight times with the last three off the wildcat. He 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 after 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.
Trey Wilson picked off a Glennon pass intended for tight end Charlie Hegedus in the end zone on the opening drive of the third quarter only to be stopped by his own teammate, tackle Jared Morse, at the N.C. State 35. It was the kind of mistake that cost Vandy in years past.
Franklin immediately ran up to Morse yelling at the junior, making it clear that's not allowed at Vandy these days.