On Thursday, Vanderbilt (6-6) will appear in its ninth bowl game in program history. The Commodores will face off against Baylor (6-6) of the Big 12 in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 in Houston. Vanderbilt boasts an all-time bowl record of 4-3-1 and has now reached the postseason six times in the last 10 years. Ahead of the Texas Bowl, Commodore History Corner offers a breakdown of Vanderbilt's eight previous bowl games.
1955 Gator Bowl
Vanderbilt's first true opportunity to secure a bowl invitation came on Thanksgiving Day in 1937. Unbeknownst to the Commodores at the time, an invitation to the Rose Bowl was on the line as unbeaten Alabama ventured to Dudley Field. With six minutes remaining in the game and the Commodores leading 7-6, the Crim
son Tide booted a 23-yard field goal that was enough to ultimately defeat Vanderbilt, 9-7.
It would be another 18 years before Vanderbilt was able to finally secure a trip to the postseason, which took place on New Year's Eve in 1955 in the Gator Bowl against No. 8 Auburn. The hero of the game for the 8-3 Commodores would be quarterback Don Orr, who was still hurting from a dislocated shoulder suffered during the Tennessee game. Art Guepe's Commodores forced five Tiger fumbles in what ended as a 25-13 Vanderbilt victory.
After a fumble on the Auburn 39-yard line, Orr guided his offense into the Tiger end zone in eight plays capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Joe Stephenson. Vandy led 7-0 at the end of the first period. Auburn responded with a 38-yard scoring pass that finished a 10-play drive to tie it up.
On the Commodores' next possession, Orr carried the ball 44 yards to the Tigers' 28. He then passed to Joe Scales who was downed at the four-yard line. Orr carried the ball on the next play for six points after a fake to fullback Phil King to give his team a 13-7 halftime lead. The conversion attempt was no good.
At the opening of the third quarter, Vanderbilt recovered another Tiger fumble, which led to Orr's second touchdown a one-yard plunge. The extra point failed as the Commodores extended their lead to 19-7. Both teams scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter with the Commodores' points recorded by All-American Charley Horton on a one-yard off-tackle run. Orr was named the game's MVP with two rushing touchdowns, 43 rushing yards and 67 passing yards.
1974 Peach Bowl
Vanderbilt would secure a berth in the 1974 Peach Bowl in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium following a 7-3-1 regular season coached by a youthful Steve Sloan. Texas Tech was the opponent in the defensive battle with the game ending in a deadlock, 6-6. Field goals accounted for all the scoring in front of a Vanderbilt-dominated 25,000 fans in attendance.
Late in the first half, Vanderbilt quarterback David Lee overthrew a pass to Walter Overton that was intercepted in the Red Raider end zone. A few plays later, Jay Chesley picked off a Tech pass, returning the ball to the Red Raider 14-yard line. The short drive stalled and placekicker Mark Adams booted a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 Commodore lead.
In the third quarter, Texas Tech tied the game at 3-3 when a drive stalled at the Vanderbilt 16-yard line. Early in the fourth quarter, Tech lined up for a go-ahead field goal that was blocked by Commodore freshman defensive lineman Dennis Harrison, the game's eventual MVP. The Commodores responded on their next possession with Adams' second field goal – a 26-yarder – and a 6-3 Vanderbilt lead.
The Red Raiders pushed another field goal between the uprights late in the quarter, and the game ended in a 6-6 tie. Several records were either tied or broken in the game. The Commodore offense struggled with Lee passing for 60 yards (5-for-14) while Jamie O' Rourke led Vanderbilt in rushing (76 yards). A few days later, Sloan stunned the Vanderbilt community when he announced he was leaving Nashville for a job that had suddenly become vacant: Texas Tech.
1982 Hall of Fame Bowl
The 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl was played New Year's Eve at Birmingham's Legion Field. The entertaining offensive showcase was won by Air Force, which defeated Vanderbilt, 36-28. The 8-4 Commodores were coached by George MacIntyre and led on the field by First Team All-SEC quarterback Whit Taylor.
Taylor was unstoppable for the first three quarters while building a 28-17 lead going into the fourth period. He tossed three touchdown passes to Norman Jordan and one to Phil Roach. The Falcons roared through the final period with a potent ground attack, outscoring the Commodores 19-0 in the fourth quarter to claim the comeback victory.
Taylor was named the game's MVP after completing a team-record 452 yards (38-of-51), which remains the second-highest single-game passing yardage in Vanderbilt history. Running out of the backfield, Jordan hauled in 20 receptions for 173 yards and breaking five Hall of Fame records. Commodore kicker Ricky Anderson recorded the two field goals. In all, 33 Hall of Fame Bowl records were broken during the matchup, and another eight were tied.
Stanford had originally been expected to face Vanderbilt in the Hall of Fame Bowl, but the infamous Cal-Stanford "band on the field" game ended the Cardinal's shot at a trip to Birmingham. In that game, Cal stunned Stanford on the final play just as the Cardinal band prematurely ran onto the field. The Bears' win pushed Air Force in to replace Stanford as Vanderbilt's Hall of Fame Bowl opponent. Thus, the much-anticipated Whit Taylor passing duel with Stanford's Heisman-caliber quarterback, John Elway, was never to be.
2008 Music City Bowl
It would be another 26 years before Vanderbilt again tasted the postseason. The Commodores secured a matchup with No. 24 Boston College in the Gaylord's Hotel Music City Bowl at Nashville's LP Field. Vanderbilt, which had finished 6-6 under head coach Bobby Johnson, topped the Eagles 16-14 for its first bowl victory since the '55 Gator Bowl 53 years earlier.
The 2008 Music City Bowl took place on New Year's Eve. Vanderbilt kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt would nail three field goals in the game to earn MVP honors. When the Commodores' first two drives stalled, Hahnfeldt connected on field goals of 42 and 26 yards to give Vandy a 6-0 lead after the first period.
The Eagles would score their first points with a four-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter for a 7-6 halftime lead. Vanderbilt recorded its only touchdown in the game when freshman safety Sean Richardson fell on a Commodore punt in the end zone that bounced off the knee of a Boston College player. The Commodores led 13-7 going into the fourth quarter.
Boston College would take the lead, 14-13, on a 55-yard touchdown pass midway in the final period. Hahnfeldt would kick the game-winner with a 45-yard field goal at the 3:26 mark to give Vandy the 16-14 victory. Vanderbilt defensive back Myron Lewis picked off a BC pass with 1:36 left to secure the win. Hahnfeldt was the game's MVP as the Commodores used two quarterbacks — Larry Smith (10-of-17 for 121 yards) and Chris Nickson (eight carries for 57 yards).
2011 Liberty Bowl
The 2011 AutoZone Memphis Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve would be the first of back-to-back-to-back bowl appearances for the Commodores. Coach James Franklin was in his first season at Vanderbilt (6-6) and faced Cincinnati in this postseason game. The Commodores scored first on a seven-yard Zac Stacy touchdown run in the first quarter.
In the second period, the Bearcats scored a pair of touchdowns on a 69-yard run and eight-yard pass to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Vanderbilt senior quarterback Larry Smith replaced starter Jordan Rodgers in the third quarter. Vandy tied the game at 14 when running back Jerron Seymour capped a drive with a five-yard touchdown run. Cincinnati added a field goal in the fourth quarter to regain the lead, 17-14.
The Commodores responded quickly with a 68-yard scoring pass from Smith to Chris Boyd and a 21-17 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bearcats returned the ball 90 yards for six points and a 24-21 advantage. The Bearcats added another touchdown while Vanderbilt closed the scoring with a field goal, but it was not enough in a 31-24 Cincinnati win.
2012 Music City Bowl
One year later, Vanderbilt found itself in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl for yet another New Year's Eve game, this time against North Carolina State. Franklin's Commodores would beat the Wolfpack, 38-24, to finish the season 9-4, capping Vanderbilt's first nine-win season since 1915.
The Commodores drove the ball 65 yards in the opening possession, ended by a Jordan Rodgers touchdown to Chris Boyd on a five-yard pass. Vanderbilt would score 21 points in the second quarter while the Wolfpack recorded a pair of touchdowns. Zac Stacy ran for six yards into the end zone, Wesley Tate added one from seven yards out and Jordan Matthews collected an 18-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Rodgers. Vanderbilt led after three quarters, 28-14.
In the fourth period, Carey Spear added a 30-yard field goal while Rodgers closed a drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to end the Vanderbilt scoring. NC State added 10 points in the final quarter, but Vanderbilt won 38-24 as Stacy, running mostly from the wildcat, earned the game's MVP honors. He rushed for 107 yards (25 carries) and one touchdown.
Vanderbilt collected three interceptions in the contest by Kenny Ladler, Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson. The Wolfpack fumbled the ball six times and lost two, but they outgained the Commodores in total offense, 424-225. Vandy was 3-of-4 in fourth-down conversions. Rodgers was 16-of-25 for 108 yards and connected with Matthews seven times for 61 yards.
2014 BBVA Compass Bowl
On January 4, 2014, Vanderbilt won a wild game, 41-24, in the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham. The Franklin-led Commodores jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead over the Houston Cougars. Patton Robinette started at quarterback for Vanderbilt when senior Austin Carta-Samuels needed season-ending knee surgery on his left knee.
In the first quarter, Robinette hit Jordan Matthews with a 50-yard touchdown pass, and an eight-yard touchdown run by Robinette capped a drive that gave the Commodores a 14-0 lead. In the second period, Carey Spear split the uprights with a 24-yard field goal and Robinette located Matthews for another 50-yard touchdown bomb. The halftime score read Vanderbilt 24 Houston 0.
However, the Cougars roared back in the third quarter by scoring 24 unanswered points and knotting the game at 24-24. But the Commodores did not panic and owned the fourth quarter, shutting out Houston and adding 17 points for the victory. Brian Kimbrow scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown; Spear was good from 35 yards on a field goal attempt while Jerron Seymour ended the scoring with a two-yard plunge into the end zone.
The Commodores (9-4) completed their first back-to-back nine win seasons in program history on the heels of three straight bowl appearances. Matthews was the game's MVP with five receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
2016 Independence Bowl
Two years later on December 26, 2016, the Commodores appeared in the 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl in Shreveport's Independence Stadium. Derek Mason
was in his third season as the Commodores' head coach and coming off a 6-6 campaign. North Carolina State would go on to defeat Vanderbilt, 41-17.
Vanderbilt opened the scoring in the first quarter with Commodore kicker Tommy Openshaw
booting a 52-yard field goal. But NC State scored the next four touchdowns for a commanding 28-3 lead in the third quarter. The Commodores added the next pair of touchdowns with Ralph Webb
dashing 30 yards and Khari Blasingame
blasting into the end zone for the final Vandy points. The Wolfpack added 13 fourth-quarter points.
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur
was 19-of-46 passing for158 yards and three interceptions. Webb rushed the ball for 111 yards on 21 attempts. CJ Duncan led the Commodores with six receptions for 46 yards.
If you have any comments or suggestions on the Commodore History Corner, contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.