"Charlie Brown Wins!"
This could have been the headline in The Tennessean after the 19th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores beat No. 13 Auburn 14-13 in Nashville Saturday night.
For years, the Lucys of the Southeastern Conference snatched the ball away just as Charlie (a.k.a. Vandy) Brown was about to achieve success. But on this night, the SEC’s perennial whipping boys finally sank a football powerhouse to go 5-0 for the first time since World War II. As improbable as it may seem, it’s now the Commodores who are sitting proudly atop the SEC East.
Festivities began early for this much-anticipated matchup. For the first time in school history, ESPN’s College Gameday show came to the campus, setting up Friday morning at the Freshman Commons. The national notoriety energized the student body and revealed legions of previously undiscovered supporters.
"If you win, they will come," drawled long-time Vandy fan George Underhill, a retired Metro teacher who claims to have been a true-blue Commodore since he was 12-years-old and listening to games on a transistor radio. He stood arms akimbo on a hill overlooking the buzzing Vanderbilt Star Walk on Jess Neely Drive, just outside Vanderbilt Stadium’s south end zone. "I’ve never seen it this crowded before."
The loyalty of fans Bob Moore and Sandra Morris has never been in question. For more years than they can count (20 or 25; they can’t say for sure), they’ve hosted a tailgate party at a big SEC matchup, providing food and drink to 200 of their closest friends. "I’m really excited," said the Nashville builder and VU alumus. "I think we can beat Auburn today. And if we don’t, we had a really great party."
Early on, it looked as if the Tigers would slam the ‘Dores with ease. On their first possession, Auburn drove to Vandy’s end zone, but they were stopped one yard short of the goal line. It came as no surprise those wearing orange and blue that Coach Tommy Tuberville, their favorite Riverboat Gambler, would decide to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal. When a remarkable goal line stand denied the Tigers, Vandy’s team began to gain confidence.
Though the Commodores went into the locker room down 7 points, they came out swinging in the second half. Thirty exciting minutes and a touchdown later, the Commodores were raising the Victory Flag over Dudley Field and the throaty Touchdown Foghorn echoed across campus. The team reluctantly retreated to the locker room, but returned to the field to revel in the cheers from the jubilant followers who had refused to vacate the stadium.
Second-string quarterback Mackenzi Adams will long be remembered as one of the stars of this historic game. In a television interview, the beaming backup who stepped in for the injured Chris Nickson claimed that watching ESPN’s Nick Corso dismissively toss the Commodore mascot aside and pick Auburn to win gave him the motivation to rally his team and bring them back from the jaws of defeat. Corso, it seems, had no faith in Charlie Brown.