Mitchell: Vanderbilt's Message
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb
Sometimes bowls are as much (or even more) about the extra practice time as they are the exhibition game itself. More about sending a message to underclassmen, to potential recruits or your conference foes.
That's what the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl was for Vanderbilt. Beating NC State was far less important than sending a message. Several messages.
Marketing a successful program in the nation's premier conference. Advertising that the Dores were in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since forever. Selling the possibility for a successful nine win season for the first time since WWI.
Though perhaps most importantly, Vandy was marketing its most valuable football asset...one of the nation's most dynamic coaches: James Franklin.
Franklin gets all this.
That's why Vandy went for it on 4-and-1 from its own 38 early in the fourth quarter. It's an exhibition game and you're up 14 points in the fourth quarter, and sure, a ninth win would be nice. But the far greater opportunity is to show to everyone watching, especially recruits, that this isn't your father's Vandy.
This is Franklin's Vandy.
Against one of the nation's better pass offenses, Vandy coaches trusted their players and ran an aggressive scheme - the kind most prep athletes would love to play - and they were rewarded with five NCSU turnovers (three interceptions).
Against a spotty Wolf Pack defense, Vandy had a balanced passing and rushing attack, and clearly benefited from several short fields (thanks to the aforementioned turnovers). But the fourth quarter was largely about running the ball down NC State's gullet. The Dores only scored once in the last frame, but they controlled the ball for ~10 of the game's final 15 minutes.
Again, sending a message.
With a top 15 recruiting class now likely to only improve before the first Wednesday in February, the rest of the SEC would be well served to hear Vandy's message loud and clear.
Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC Columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb
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