Rodgers leads Vanderbilt over Wake Forest 55-21
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores continue to rewrite the school record books.
And the season isn’t even over yet.
After a 2-4 start the Commodores have strung together six straight wins, the school’s longest such streak since 1955.
The latest victory came Saturday in a blowout fashion as Jordan Rodgers threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and Zac Stacy ran for a season-high 180 yards and two scores in a dominating 55-21 win over Wake Forest.
Vanderbilt also scored twice on special teams, blocking a punt and recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown and also returning a punt 83 yards for a score.
“It was a great way to cap off the season,” Rodgers said of the team’s first eight-win season since 1982.
Records continue to fall.
Stacy eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season and added to his career school record of 3,036 yards rushing, receiver Jordan Matthews set a single-season record with 1,262 yards receiving, and kicker Casey Spear hit a pair of field goals from beyond 50 yards and added seven extra points to finish with a school record 81 points.
Vanderbilt also eclipsed 40 points for the fifth time this season, the first time that’s happened since 1915.
“When you’re throwing numbers out about breaking records from 1952, 1948 and 1915, to me that’s impressive,” Commodores coach James Franklin said.
The Commodores (8-4) aren’t sure where they’ll wind up playing in their second straight bowl appearance, but there are plenty of Vanderbilt fans hoping they stay right at home and play in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. Franklin said he’d love to play there — or anywhere else.
“I love Nashville, and I’m excited about the (possibility) of the Music City Bowl, but we try to focus our time on the things that we can control, and wherever they tell us we’re going we will be unbelievably excited,” Franklin said. “There is no bad bowl game.”
Wake Forest (5-7) needed a win to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season but struggled down the stretch, losing to North Carolina State and Notre Dame before absorbing Saturday’s crushing defeat.
Depending on how things shake out, they could still wind up in a bowl if not enough eligible teams qualify with six wins.
But it’s unclear if the Demon Deacons will even want to go after losing their final three games.
“Judging by these past three games, I don’t know how much our team really deserves to go to a bowl game right now,” said Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price, who threw for 182 yards in the loss. “We just haven’t been competitive the last couple weeks, and it’s disappointing.”
Meanwhile, the Commodores don’t want the season to end.
Rodgers is thrilled with how they’ve turned the season around after a 2-4 start.
“To win six straight is huge,” he said. “We were at a point in the season where we had only won two games; we felt like we had a lot of winnable games coming up. To look back and realize we got six games in a row is a testament to how much better this time has gotten from game one.”
Vanderbilt scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions to take a 28-7 lead at halftime and never looked back. Wesley Tate added two scores, and Matthews had all 10 catches for 144 yards in the first half, including a 64-yard touchdown reception from Rodgers.
Vanderbilt looked dominant from the start.
Picking up where it left off in last week’s 41-18 victory over Tennessee, Vanderbilt took the opening kickoff and marched 85 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead with Rodgers hitting a wide-open Tate along the right sideline for a 25-yard touchdown.
Wake Forest bounced back, driving 71 yards on 16 plays to tie the game at 7 on fullback Tommy Bohanon’s fourth-down touchdown run from the 1.
But the rest of the half belonged to Vanderbilt.
After Tate made it 14-7 on a 14-yard run, Rodgers hooked up with Matthews on a 64-yard scoring play that seemed to take the life out of the Demon Deacons.
Stacy tacked on a 4-yard touchdown run after linebacker Colt Nichter forced a Sherman Ragland fumble at the Wake Forest 37 to make it 28-7.
Matthews was nearly unstoppable in the first half.
He came into the game red hot with a combined 16 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns in wins against the Tennessee and Ole Miss. Wake Forest simply had no answer for him.
Fearful he might beat them deep, defensive backs gave him extra space, and Matthews cut off his routes with precision and hauled in easy first-down catches from Rodgers.
Things only got worse in the second half for the Demon Deacons.
After their first drive ended in a three-and-out, Andrew Williamson blocked Alexander Kinal’s punt, and Casey Hughes recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 35-7.
Spear added field goals of 52 and 50 yards for Vanderbilt in the second half, and Jonathan Krause returned a punt 83 yards for another score.
Stacy went over 1,000 yards season for the season with a 90-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to put Vanderbilt up 55-14.
Credit: The Associated Press.
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