That Golden Season

Vanderbilt's last winning football season took place 20 years ago. Led by quarterback Whit Taylor and a bevy of stellar receivers, the 1982 Commodores finished 8-3 and played in the Hall of Fame Bowl. VandyMania looks back at "that golden season."

1982 Vanderbilt Commodores

Head Coach: George MacIntyre

Assistant Coaches: Watson Brown, offensive coordinator; Bob Brush, defensive coordinator; Monty Crook, linemen; Gene DeFilippo, backs; Greg Mantooth, linemen; Dave Roberts, secondary; Donny Sherman, receivers; Kurt Van Valkenburgh, defensive backs; Mark Bradley, tight ends; Mickey Jacobs, linebackers; E. J. "Doc" Kreis, strength. 

September 11: Vanderbilt 24, Memphis State 14 

Overcoming a sluggish start, Vanderbilt exploded for 17 points in the second quarter and went on to vanquish Memphis State 24-14 before 25,704 fans in the Liberty Bowl in the 1982 opener. The patented Whit Taylor to Allama Matthews combination got off to a great start, clicking for three touchdowns-- including two in the decisive second quarter. Fullback Ernie Goolsby rambled for 134 yards on 21 carries, marking the only time a Commodore runner would break the century mark all season. Vandy's total of 178 yards on the ground was the team's single-game high as well. Defensively, cornerback Leonard Coleman got his record-setting season going with a pair of interceptions, including a crucial touchdown-saving theft in the end zone in the third quarter. 

September 18: North Carolina 34, Vanderbilt 10 

The powerful North Carolina Tar Heels, ranked 11th nationally at the time, broke open a halftime deadlock to defeat the Commodores in front of 51,696 fans at Kenan Stadium at Chapel Hill. Vanderbilt played a solid first half, earning a 10-10 tie at intermission after a 37-yard Ricky Anderson field goal and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Whit Taylor to Norman Jordan. The combination of the day's oppressive heat and the pressure of the Carolina defense, however, proved to be too much for the Commodores. The 90-plus degree temperatures and the deep Tar Heel squad simply wore Vandy down. 

September 25: Alabama 24, Vanderbilt 21 

A gallant second half comeback engineered by second team quarterback Kurt Page fell just short as Alabama outlasted Vanderbilt, 24-21, before a packed house of 60,210 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Ranked fourth in the nation at the time, the Crimson Tide looked awesome in rolling to a 24-7 halftime lead. Commodore hopes were dimmed late in the second quarter when Whit Taylor was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Vandy pulled itself together at halftime, however, and nearly won the game. The Commodore defense showed its mettle by blanking the Alabama wishbone for the game's final 30 minutes. Page, meanwhile, tossed a pair of third quarter touchdown passes to Allama Matthews. Vandy's last drive of the game was thwarted by a costly intentional grounding penalty that put the Commodores out of near-touchdown range. (Note: This would be the last time Vanderbilt would face Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who retired after the 1982 season.) 

October 2: Vanderbilt 24, Tulane 21 

Capitalizing on three Tulane turnovers, Vandy scored 17 points in the first half and held off a late Green Wave charge to win the home opener, 24-21, in front of almost 40,000 fans. Still feeling the effects of a physical game with Alabama the week before, Vanderbilt was outgained by more than 100 yards. But as would happen often during the season, Vandy's "bend but don't break" defense caused several turnovers, which the opportunistic offense turned into points. Outstanding defensive play by free safety Manuel Young choked off a Green Wave threat in the middle of the fourth quarter and the Commodore secondary contained another last-ditch Tulane effort in the final seconds to seal the win. 

October 9: Vanderbilt 31, Florida 29 

Facing 14th-ranked Florida with its more-than-potent offense, and without do-everything fullback Ernie Goolsby, it appeared that Vanderbilt might be overmatched in the season's fifth game. Vandy offensive coordinator Watson Brown, however, pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. He created a one-back offense and installed freshman Jim Popp as a second tight end to offset Florida All-America linebacker Wilber Marshall. The strategy worked like a charm. Marshall was never a factor and Whit Taylor completed 30 of 47 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns and scampered for 64 more yards. Vandy's final touchdown came when offensive lineman Rob Monaco recovered a fumble in the end zone. 

October 16: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 13 

This game, played before 82,122 fans "between the hedges" of Sanford Stadium in Athens, would be the third and final loss of the regular season for Vanderbilt. And had the Commodores held on to their 13-10 lead at the end of the third quarter, as it turned out, they would have earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl. But such castles in the air came to nothing thanks to the heroics of the Georgia defense in general, and Terry Hoage in particular. Hoage, Georgia's magnificent rover back, intercepted three Whit Taylor passes. Both defensive units played brilliantly. Three times in the first half Commodore defenders forced turnovers deep in Georgia territory, but all Vanderbilt could salvage was two field goals by Ricky Anderson. (Note: Georgia running back Herschel Walker, who played his third and final game against Vanderbilt, would go on to win the Heisman Trophy.) 

October 23: Vanderbilt 19, Ole Miss 10 

With both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss sporting 3-3 records, scouts from four bowls arrived at Vanderbilt Stadium to begin courting the winner of this game, which was televised regionally by CBS. Coach George MacIntyre's Commodores came from behind with 13 points in the fourth quarter to capture the victory and set in motion a five-game winning streak. The game's biggest play came in the middle of the final quarter, with Vanderbilt leading 12-10 and the Rebels poised at the Commodore 48-yard line. Vandy senior linebacker Joe Staley picked off a pass and lumbered down the west sideline to the Rebel eight. A Whit Taylor to Arnaz Perry pass scored the clinching touchdown, but Staley's interception has been hailed by many as "the biggest play in Vanderbilt history." The Commodore defensive unit flexed its muscles for the second straight week. Vandy's "bend but don't break" style of defense proved effective as the Commodores often gave ground, but showed a tendency to stiffen near the goal line. 

November 6: Vanderbilt 23, Kentucky 10 

All the incentive Vanderbilt needed for the Kentucky game was to remember the previous year's loss when Wildcat safety Andy Molis scooped up a punt that had crazily bounced back over the Commodore coverage and returned it 87 yards for the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Commodores gained revenge in front of 56,123 Wildcat homeco Top Stories