Vanderbilt wins Music City Bowl over NC State

By Daniel Wilson

Vanderbilt wins Music City Bowl over NC State

N.C. State (7-6, 4-4 ACC), who earned its third-consecutive bowl bid under former head coach Tom O’Brien, fell to the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-4, 6-3 SEC), 38-24, in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible coached the team in his first game as the interim head coach.

“We’re disappointed, but proud,” Bible said. “This group of seniors did a special job in the last six weeks and they distinguished themselves that way.”

Graduate student quarterback Mike Glennon completed 35 of his 53 passes for 383 yards, all of which are new Music City Bowl records. His lone touchdown pass was to redshirt junior wide receiver Rashard Smith. Smith had three catches for 50 yards.

Senior wide receiver Tobais Palmer caught eight passes for 111 yards. He also broke the Music City Bowl record for kick return yards with 173, including a 94-yard touchdown, his second on the season. Greg Golden was the last State player to return a kickoff for a score when he ran back a 90-yard return against Pittsburgh in 2001. Palmer is the first State player to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season since Lamont Reid accomplished the feat in 2002.

Palmer’s return yards brought his season total to 1,130, setting a new record for State. He is the second Pack player to amass over 1,000 yards in kickoff returns in school history with T.J. Graham earning 1,028 yards in 2008.

Vanderbilt redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers completed 16 of 25 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers also ran for 15 yards on four carries and an additional touchdown.

“He’s a really good player that made a lot of good plays,” Redshirt senior safety Earl Wolff said.

Wolff led the team with nine tackles, earning 400 tackles in his college career, a State first for defensive backs. He ranks fifth in most tackles in school history.

The defense held strong on third downs as it had all season. Prior to the bowl game, the Pack led the nation in third down conversions. Only 50 of 184 third downs were converted by opposing offenses. The Commodores only converted three of their 14 third downs in the contest.

The Pack turned the ball over to Vanderbilt five times, including three interceptions by Glennon.  Redshirt junior tight end Asa Watson and freshman running back Shadrach Thornton accounted for the remaining turnovers by fumbling in the first half.  While only losing two, State accounted for six fumbles, another Music City Bowl record.

“When you play a team like Vanderbilt, you cannot make mistakes like that,” Bible said. “We practiced hard through the month of December specifically concentrating on ball security.  Obviously, we did not get that done.”

Thornton ended the game with 42 rushing yards on 12 carries, snapping his streak of games with 100 yards on the ground. He also caught five passes for 41 yards.

Vanderbilt began the game by scoring a touchdown, the fourth time State has allowed an opening-drive score in its 13 games this season.  Rodgers connected with Commodore redshirt sophomore Chris Boyd.  Both teams remained off the scoreboard until less than five minutes into the second quarter when senior running back Zac Stacy ran six yards to the end zone for another Vanderbilt touchdown. Stacy finished the day with 107 rushing yards on 25 carries and earned Most Valuable Player honors for the game.

Redshirt sophomore running back Tony Creecy scored the first points for the Pack, finding the end zone on a one-yard rush. Creecy ended the game with 43 yards on nine carries as well as six receptions for 50 yards.

On the next Commodore possession, redshirt junior running back Jordan Tate rushed seven yards to the goal line for another Vanderbilt touchdown. On the following kickoff, Palmer returned the ball 94 yards to the end zone. Rodgers would find pay dirt in only two plays on the next possession, connecting with junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews on an 18-yard pass, the final score of the first half.

Junior placekicker Carey Spear scored the only points in the third quarter by kicking a 30-yard field goal for the Commodores.  Sophomore placekicker Niklas Sade began the fourth quarter by notching a 24-yard field goal for the Pack. Vanderbilt’s final score came on the legs of Rodgers, who ran 15 yards for the touchdown. The last score of the game was a touchdown pass from Glennon to Smith.

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