Vandy's on one-game win streak

Bobby Johnson no longer has to endure the annoying queries about Vanderbilt?s Southeastern Conference losing streak. It's officially terminated.

An impressive performance by quarterback Jay Cutler led the Commodores to a 28-17 upset of Kentucky, purging Vanderbilt of the embarrassing 23-game SEC skid that dates back to the 2000 season when it defeated the Wildcats 24-20. It was also the Commodores' first home SEC win since 1998's 17-14 win over South Carolina.

It may be a short-lived celebration, as Vanderbilt prepares for a battle with Tennessee Saturday. But the Commodores are certainly feeling better about themselves and now believe they are capable of winning in the SEC.

"It was a great win," said Johnson, who won an SEC game for the first time in 15 tries. "We came out and played hard and played well. We played mistake-free football. If we play like that we can win in this league. The players stepped up and put it on the line.

"This win, of course, builds a lot of confidence for our players. I'm glad to see that now I don't have to answer any more questions about the streak."

Johnson doesn't have to question the devotion of the Vanderbilt fans, either. After the win, the Nashville crowd brought the goalposts down.

Hardly something you would see from most venues after a win over a 4-6 Kentucky team, but this was the best thing Vanderbilt followers had to cheer about in years.

"We have great fans," Johnson said. "We have to have great fans to stick with us through that kind of streak."

The Commodores had reason to believe a conference win would come this season. After all, they pushed Western Division leader Ole Miss to the limit early in the season before losing 24-21 and lost by nine to Mississippi State and 11 to South Carolina.

"This feels excellent and we must now build on this," Vanderbilt receiver Erik Davis said. "We've got to use this game as a springboard. One and nine does not show how hard we have worked. We have played a lot of good games. We could not lose this game."

The improving play of Cutler has been a key reason for the Commodores becoming more competitive. Cutler accounted for 304 yards of total offense with 175 passing and a career-high 129 yards rushing. He threw four touchdown passes.

Cutler now ranks second on the list of single-season touchdown passes by a Vanderbilt quarterback with 18. He also ranks second to Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning in total yardage in the SEC with 2,553 yards. After the game, Cutler was more interested in discussing the team's victory than his personal stats.

"The win means so much to this program, the students and the coaches," he said. "The look of happiness on everyone's face made me speechless. We worked hard for this win. We have put too much time into this not to win. It is an overwhelming feeling."

The Vanderbilt offense is now averaging 367 yards per game, including 219 yards passing. Davis, who caught two touchdown passes Saturday, and Brandon Smith have been the leading receivers with 38 grabs each. Davis has eight touchdown catches.

Johnson is pleased with the resurgence of the passing game.

"When Dan Stricker graduated, somebody was going to have to step up and be the guy," he said. "Brandon has upheld his end of it. We are blessed with more quality depth at receiver. We don't have to have only one guy, like Dan, that we want to go to all the time. Erik Davis has had a very good year. We feel good about the wideouts right now. We just have to continue to do things better without the ball. We have to block better. We have to make sure everything is exactly right because our offense needs execution to be successful."

The defense has surrendered 374 yards per outing, but came up big against Kentucky and standout quarterback Jared Lorenzen. The Commodores sacked Lorenzen four times and limited him to 15-of-35 passing.

"We got real good pressure on Lorenzen," Vanderbilt defensive end Jovan Haye said. "Our goal was to make him move out of the pocket. We did that tonight. Pressure on him caused some mistakes."


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