Commodore Bowl Keys: Chris Nickson

Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson will put on the Black and Gold for the final time before the Music City Bowl on New Years Eve. Nickson, who has been up and down throughout his career at VU, has a chance to be the first quarterback to lead Vanderbilt to a bowl win since Don Orr did it in 1955.

Nickson has already done something no VU quarterback has done since 1982, which is to lead a Commodore team to bowl eligibility. A 31-24 win at Kentucky gained him that accolade. He was classic Chris Nickson in that game, rushing for 118 yards and passing for another 155 yards and 3 scores. But while Nickson has earned a special place in Commodore fan's heart, he if far from consistent and has struggled at times. In Nickson's defense, the beatings he's taken from tough SEC defenses have had a lot to do with his variations in performance. Both he and his counterpart, Mackenzi Adams, have taken some brutal abuse at the hands of big, strong and viscous opposing defenders. With Adams still nursing injuries sustained against Wake Forest and other earlier injuries it looks like the bulk of the quarterbacking responsibilities will fall on Nickson's shoulders. Yes, sophomore Larry Smith looked solid against Wake Forest in relief of Adams and Nickson but to expect him to lead Vandy to a win over a top-notch defense like Boston College would be far fetched. A healthy Nickson, who has tons of experience and explosive running ability, has the best chance to lead the Commodores to a win over the Eagles.

Throughout his career Nickson has been very effective at times. After red shirting in his freshman year in 2004, Nickson saw limited action in 2005 while playing in the shadow of Jay Cutler. VU fans will probably best remember his appearance during the MTSU loss in which the Vandy staff installed him as quarterback with Cutler at wide receiver. The play failed and Vanderbilt went on to suffer a devastating loss to the Blue Raiders, a loss that would ultimately extend the Commodores bowl less streak three more years.

Nickson through the years
TOT 14061734062921
In 2006 Nickson moved into Cutler's vacated starting position and caught fire. In leading his team to a 4-8 season Nickson rushed for 694 yards and 9 touchdowns and passed for another 2,085 and 15 touchdowns. It seems almost unbelievable now but Nickson had big games against the likes of Florida (298 yards passing) and Kentucky (446 yards passing). Nickson's one big flop that season was against South Carolina; a game in which he struggled as Vanderbilt fell, 31-13.

Last season Chris led Vanderbilt to early season wins over Richmond and Ole Miss but an injury sustained while diving into the end zone against the Rebels put Nickson's season into a tailspin. The week following the 31-17 win over Ole Miss, Nickson threw for 4 interceptions against Eastern Michigan. He played little in the season's remaining games except for the Miami (Ohio) game in which he rushed for 42 yards but didn't attempt a pass.

This season Nickson looked like his old self as he led the Commodores to early season wins over Miami, South Carolina and Rice. But then in another victory over Ole Miss he was replaced due to injury. The Alabama native later played some in the big Auburn win and struggled at Mississippi State in a frustrating loss. After a solid late game appearance against Florida Nickson started at Kentucky. Nickson then led the 'Dores to the historic victory over the Wildcats in Lexington but in the final two games of the season against Tennessee and at Wake, he fizzled.

Can a healthy Nickson lead Vanderbilt to another historic win? We've got a feeling he will. The rest and healing of the last few weeks will be good for Nickson and for Vanderbilt.

VandyMania salutes quarterback Chris Nickson and his Commodore teammates.

Chris Nickson has passed for almost 3,500 yards during his career at Vanderbilt. (VM/Stan Jones)

Commodores Daily Top Stories