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Vanderbilt uses turnovers to top N.C. State in Music City Bowl

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt didn't move the ball much but used a 5-0 advantage in turnovers as well as some timely offensive plays as the hometown Commodores beat N.C. State 38-24 on Monday in the Music City Bowl.

The Commodores managed just 225 yards, but they took advantage of great field position to turn three of those five turnovers into 17 points. Three came on interceptions off Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon.

Vanderbilt senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers also came up big when it mattered, throwing touchdown passes to Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews and also adding a rushing score.

Rodgers' rushing touchdown came with 5:11 remaining, and gave the Commodores an insurmountable 38-17 lead. The Commodores (9-4) earned their first bowl win since the 2008 Music City Bowl, and it is their first nine-win season since 1915.

It punctuated an incredible two-year turnaround for Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. The Commodores were 4-20 in the two seasons prior to his arrival and are now 15-11 in his two seasons in Nashville. He was previously Maryland's offensive coordinator.

"I think (the turnaround) is really two things: The university decided to hire some psycho that nobody ever heard of and gave him a chance, and an unbelievable group of guys that bought into and believed in everything that we asked them to do."

Most of the action came in the first half. The Wolfpack (7-6) outgained VU 187-151 in yards at the break but trailed 28-14 mostly because of four turnovers.

Vanderbilt converted Kenny Ladler's interception into a 6-yard touchdown run by Zac Stacy, and an Eric Samuels pick later resulted in an 18-yard pass from Rodgers to Matthews.

Vanderbilt also had a 5-yard toss from Rodgers to Boyd on the game's first drive and Wesley Tate's 7-yard, second-quarter scoring run. The throw to Boyd was a highlight-reel grab, with the junior making a one-handed catch while getting a toe inbounds just before going out of the side of the end zone.

N.C. State got its first-half points on a 1-yard run by Tony Creecey and a 94-yard kickoff return by Tobais Palmer.

Glennon threw a touchdown to Reshard Smith with 2:06 remaining as part of a 35-of-53, 383-yard, one-touchdown day.

"No, that was not the case at all," Glennon said when asked if he tried to do too much. "I played my game. (Vanderbilt) made some good plays."

Vanderbilt's Carey Spear hit a 30-yard field goal, and the Wolfpack's Niklas Sade booted one from 24, accounting for the only other points of the second half.

Vandy's Stacy, the school's all-time leading rusher, finished with 25 carries for 107 yards and was named the game's MVP.

For Rodgers, it was redemption from last year's Liberty Bowl loss to Cincinnati, during which he was benched for poor play.

"Last year, I didn't feel like I put my team in a position to win, and that was really tough," the senior said. "This year, I did what I was asked to do. I don't think I played a perfect game, but that is where the play of our defense and our offensive line picked us up."

State was playing under interim coach Dana Bible, who doesn't know whether he'll be a part of the new staff under incoming coach Dave Doeren.

"When the change occurred, I knew my limitations with both of these jobs. With that in mind, I had to remain focused and do one thing as best I could: Finish out the month of December, specifically, then think about what happens later. I now have time to sit down and discuss, so we'll see what the future holds."

NOTES: VU, which went to the Liberty Bowl last season, appeared in back-to-back bowls for the first time in its 123-year football history. ... Vanderbilt is 3-2-1 in bowls, while N.C. State dropped to 14-12-1. ... Attendance was 55,801, with a heavy Vanderbilt slant: the VU campus is just 10 minutes from LP Field. ... Stacy's 1,141 yards for the season are second most in school history (behind his record-setting mark from last year) and give him 3,143 for his career. ... Palmer's 173 kick return yards gave him 1,130 on the season, which set an N.C. State record. His touchdown was his second kickoff return for a score this season. ... Glennon's 300-yard game was his sixth of his season and the ninth of his career. Both marks are third in N.C. State's record book. ... Only two VU teams (1904, 1915) have won nine games, and no Vandy team has won more than that.

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