Commodore Brunch Week 12: Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee

November+26th%2C+2016+%E2%80%93+The+Commodores+celebrate+after+their+45-34+win+against+UT+at+home+Saturday+night+in+Vanderbilt+Stadium.+Photo+by+Ziyi+Liu
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Commodore Brunch Week 12: Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee

November 26th, 2016 – The Commodores celebrate after their 45-34 win against UT at home Saturday night in Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo by Ziyi Liu

November 26th, 2016 – The Commodores celebrate after their 45-34 win against UT at home Saturday night in Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo by Ziyi Liu

November 26th, 2016 – The Commodores celebrate after their 45-34 win against UT at home Saturday night in Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo by Ziyi Liu

November 26th, 2016 – The Commodores celebrate after their 45-34 win against UT at home Saturday night in Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo by Ziyi Liu

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Raise your hand if you had Vanderbilt beating Ole Miss and Tennessee by double digits back-to-back to end the season to clinch bowl eligibility.

If you raised your hand, I’d also like tomorrow’s lottery numbers.

The Vanderbilt Commodores clinched bowl eligibility with a loud, crazy and exciting 45-34 victory over the rival Tennessee Volunteers.

When it’s all said and done, this game might go down as one of the greatest in school history. Not just for the result, but for how it happened, and what it means going forward.

Here is your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:

Welcome to the Shurmur Era

World, meet Kyle Shurmur.

The last few weeks have been a coming out party for the sophomore quarterback. He put up 416 passing yards and two touchdowns in the win, shattering his career high. He completed some long balls to Trent Sherfield and Caleb Scott that set up Vanderbilt touchdowns as well.

If there was any doubt that Shurmur was the face of the future, it’s gone now.

It’s time we stop talking about “if” Shurmur is Vanderbilt’s stable quarterback and start talking about just how far this guy can go. At this rate, he could be a top-rate SEC quarterback by the time he’s a senior.

He’s been that good. If he continues on this trajectory, the next two seasons should be fun.

As for the end of this season, when asked about getting to practice and play again this month, Shurmur kept his answer simple.

“Can’t wait.”

These Are Derek Mason’s Commodores

It’s been over two years since Derek Mason stepped out on the field for the first time as head coach, then proceeded to get clobbered by Temple in front of a shocked Vanderbilt crowd.

Feels like a distant memory now, huh?

In his three seasons at the helm at Vanderbilt, Mason has put together a program built for long-term success. The last two seasons weren’t pretty, but the agony has been washed away by just how incredible this team has been down the stretch in 2016.

There were talks of Mason being on the hot seat at times this season when things got rough.

But, after the way his team finished this season, you’ll sooner see Nick Saban fired than Derek Mason.

Mason knows how programs operate nowadays with their coaches, and he knows he’s lucky to get this chance three years in.

“I had belief, but in this day and age of people wanting to let coaches go and looking at the climate of college football, when you try to build something, when you try to be foundational, when you try to dig deep, try to lay layers of things that will allow you to build up, sometimes you aren’t guaranteed that opportunity,” he said.

After the game, Mason was absolutely ecstatic. Just look at how he celebrated with his players and the fans.

That is the look of a man that has been to hell and back, took the heat, was pushed to the brink, and now gets to say “how do you like them apples?”

Oh, and that vest needs to be a permanent thing.

Rocky Bottom in a Black and Gold State

The Volunteers were 38-0 against unranked Vanderbilt teams when they themselves were ranked by the AP.

38-0.

Side note: 38 is also the number of teeth that the UT crowd collectively had at the game.

Winning the last game of the regular season against a conference opponent to clinch a bowl berth is one thing. Doing it against your in-state rival is a whole new level, especially in front of a raucous, loud crowd.

Vanderbilt Stadium hadn’t been that rowdy in years.

As Adam Butler put it after the game, Tennessee is now Vanderbilt’s state.

“I won’t say anything, there’s no need to say anything,” he said. “For the next 365 days, we own Tennessee, until they re-establish it or do something about it.”

This victory over Tennessee is also historic. The Commodores have beaten Tennessee in three of their last five meetings. The last time they won that many in a five-year span was when they won six straight over the Volunteers from 1920 to 1926.

The 45 points Vanderbilt put up tonight was also the most the Commodores have scored against Tennessee since they won 51-7 in 1923.

So, in order to find a better stretch against Tennessee, you have to go back to before the Great Depression, television, the states of Alaska and Hawaii, the independence of Canada and Australia and the birth of Elvis Presley.

Also, you probably took more time to read this article than Tennessee head coach Butch Jones took to speak to the media. He spoke for all of four minutes and wrapped up before some members of the media even made it to the press conference room.

Maybe if he had spent more than four minutes preparing a defensive gameplan, Tennessee could have won.

But hey, champions of life, right?

Got Your Bowl Tickets Yet?

For the first time under Mason, the Vanderbilt Commodores are going to a bowl game. And they’re not doing it thanks to academic performance or luck of the draw.

They earned six wins.

We can scrap all the math and “if” scenarios now. The Commodores are going to a bowl game with six wins.

“It feels great to get it done without [five-wins and the APR], but that was the goal,” Mason said. “That was the end game. We went into this game fully wanting to win, fully expecting to win, and knowing that winning would make us bowl eligible regardless. For this group, they’re to be commended on pushing through and being process-oriented, not goal oriented. We talked about the goal, but the process is what carried us through.”

Vanderbilt has only ever been to seven bowl games in their 126 year history, so no game should be taken for granted. Whether it’s in Birmingham, Shreveport, St. Petersburg, Tempe or Detroit, it’s a bowl game.

And they earned it.

Wear that Champions of Life belt with pride, Vanderbilt.

We’ll have to wait on Vanderbilt’s bowl selection and opponent. Stay tuned.

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