Back Vandy’s Winning Ways

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Vandy’s Winning Ways

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Vanderbilt has pushed through the disappointment of a season-opening loss and widespread injuries to do things the program has never before accomplished.

We've been building this culture and a lot of different people have worked really hard on it.
~James Franklin

Vanderbilt has been playing football since 1890. Never before have they won nine games in back-to-back years. Today's Commodores stand at 7-4, their regular season finale and a bowl bid remaining. When Vanderbilt hosts Wake Forest this Saturday, it will do so attempting to string together consecutive eight-win efforts for the first time since 1927-1928. Those years the school has in the Southern, not Southeastern, Conference.

It has already been a historic season for the Commodores. By beating Georgia 31-27 in mid-October and winning at Florida 34-17 in early November, Vanderbilt has victories over the Bulldogs and Gators in the same year for the first time ever. The triumph over UGA was the program's first since 2008. The win in Gainesville was the program's first since 1948. 

Most recently, the Commodores edged rival Tennessee in Neyland Stadium. As daunting as challenging a wins record set in the late 1920s might seem, this past Saturday marked the first time since 1925-1926 that Vanderbilt has topped the Volunteers in consecutive seasons.

"We've been building this culture and a lot of different people have worked really hard on it. First of all the players, the administration, all the assistant coaches, the fans, the community, everybody has worked extremely hard to change the culture and Vanderbilt now has a culture. That culture is we expect to win week in and week out, at home, on the road, in conference, out of conference and that's a very, very valuable thing," Franklin explained.

The Commodores have now won three straight league games, two of them on the road. This weekend, they will host a Demon Deacon team they defeated in both 2011 and 2012. Saturday is a chance at eight wins for the 'Dores. It will also be the final home game for a group of seniors who have helped elevate the status quo in Nashville.

"We're really excited about getting to honor these seniors that have the chance to go down in Vanderbilt history as the most successful senior class. I think it's important that we send these guys out the right way and that's how we play on the field," Franklin continued. "I know myself, and the rest of the coaching staff, couldn't be more appreciative of the commitment that these young men have made."

Among those who will step onto Vanderbilt Stadium for the final time, All-American receiver Jordan Matthews. A likely high selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Matthews has caught 96 passes for 1,209 yards and five touchdowns this year. For his career, the Alabama-native has compiled 246 receptions, 3,491 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Commodores. He is the SEC's all-time leading receiver.

Despite what is within reach, Matthews is simply focused on finishing the regular season the right way.

"I know we have a game to play against Wake Forest and my goal is going to be to help the team win. That stuff may hit me later on, but now I don't dwell on it," he acknowledged. 

Vanderbilt has pushed through the disappointment of a season-opening loss in the final seconds and widespread injuries to do things the program has never before accomplished. More milestones lie ahead. The Commodores, however, aren't overly concerned with what has and hasn't been done. They are taking on college football with eyes not on history, rather a fixed focus on the horizon.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports