Well, the trip to Birmingham, Ala. on Saturday was well worth it. I got to see my Vanderbilt Commodores come away with a 41-24 victory over the Houston Cougars in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Watching Vandy win bowl games in back-to-back years was great. Getting to watch it with my family both times made it all the more fun. We all yelled, booed, clapped and chanted with the rest of the more than 40,000 other black-and-gold-clad fans at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. I felt rather sorry for the Houston fans, who filled up roughly a section and a half of the stadium. I will hand it to them though, there weren’t many of them, but when Houston made a good play, they were loud.
I had never been to the historic stadium, so it was a neat experience for me.
You could tell that the place hadn’t been used regularly for quite some time though. Unlike most of the stadiums these days, there was nothing digital about the scoreboard here. Oh, no. The score was displayed with old-fashioned light bulbs, like you still see in basketball gyms in most high schools. To be honest, it was darn near impossible to read for about half the game. The guys sitting in the row behind us drew lots of laughs when they talked about the stadium’s big screen, which they appropriately dubbed the “mini-tron.”
Anytime there would be an instant replay discussed, they would all yell “Let’s consult the mini-tron, shall we?” or variations of that phrase. I even remember one of them saying “I have a bigger screen on my wall at home.”
As for the game itself, the Vandy faithful had plenty to cheer about. Throughout the first half, the offense pretty much owned the field, scoring 24 points, with the help of star receiver Jordan Matthews, who set the BBVA Compass Bowl record for yards receiving with 143. He was subsequently named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The defense did its part too, allowing the Cougars just one first down.
Then came the part of the story that had all of us shaking, and not just from the 40-degree temperatures.
The third quarter made just about every Vandy fan nervous, as the Cougars roared back to tie the contest with 24 points of their own – in one quarter. Everyone sitting near us was wondering just where the team from the first half had gone.
Enter head coach James Franklin. Throughout the game he could be seen prowling the sidelines, and giving out plenty of advice (some of which I’d be willing to bet the referees did not want to hear). I don’t know what he said to the boys before the fourth quarter began, but I’m glad he said it. The defense came away with two turnovers, and the offense punched in two touchdowns and added a field goal for the final tally.
With what has happened to this team under Franklin’s leadership, I certainly hope that he is with Vandy again next season. Not to say I’d blame the guy if he were to get offered a job at another school, such as Penn State, and accepted it. I mean, it’s Penn State, a high-profile school with a large recruiting budget. But, I really want to see him prowling the Vanderbilt sidelines for several more years.
I join in the chant by many of the fans during the trophy presentation on Saturday…“Stay coach, stay!”
Kimberly Jordan is The Democrat’s general assignment reporter. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.