It'd be easy to say that the Commodores looked great against Wake Forest and call it a day. The offense came together to reel off 35 unanswered points and the defense held the Demon Deacons to their lowest point total of the season.
However, this big win is even more impressive when gauged across the history of Vanderbilt's late-season collapses.
We need look no further back than 2007 for a good example of this. That year, the 'Dores were 5-5 headed into a showdown at Tennessee. They lost that game 25-24 after squandering a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter, and the deflating momentum of that loss carried over into the season finale against Wake Forest.
A listless Commodore team - at home with just 27,000 fans officially in attendance - fell behind 31-3 in the third quarter of a Deacon blowout. The end result? A 5-7 season, a squandered shot at bowl eligibility, and a late-season collapse that embodied every bad thing about Vanderbilt football.
Four years later, the Commodores had every chance to repeat history. Hell, with five wins James Franklin's inaugural season was already considered a rousing success. But with this Vanderbilt team, there was no quitting. Guys like Tim Fugger, Brandon Barden and Zac Stacy set the tone with hard-nosed play early on. After falling behind 7-6 in the second quarter to their bowl-eligible opponents, the rest of the team followed suit. Vandy rolled to their biggest win of the season while basically sitting out the final nine minutes of regulation.
41-7 wasn't just a win, it was a statement. It was Vanderbilt's third win over a BCS conference opponent by 20 points or more on the season. Over the past decade, they've done that exactly zero times. More importantly, it was a display of the new spirit on Natchez Trace. This was a celebration of the new guard in Nashville behind a kind of victory that had been foreign to Vandy fans over the past 40 years.
That's why Franklin's cache of four-star recruits are sticking with the team. That's why players like Gunner Kiel are scheduling official visits with their families. That's why Vanderbilt is headed to a bowl game and getting an extra month of practice under their belts before what will be the Commodores' most highly-anticipated season of the modern era.
6-6 may not seem like much, but when you take a look at the journey this team has taken over the past 24 months, the scope of James Franklin's impact is apparent. The road to bowl eligibility made him a hot topic on the Penn State message boards as a potential impact hiring for one of the country's highest level programs. And now, with a new extension under his belt, he'll be in Nashville for the foreseeable future.
If you're a Commodore fan in Tennessee, that's a good thing. If you're not - don't worry. You will be soon.
Good/Bad Analysis and the PiBB Ice Player of the Week Awards will be coming in a separate article down the road. Wild guess, but our player of the week's name might be a portmanteau of a prominent Saved by the Bell character and the girl he dated when the whole crew worked at that resort for a summer. Man, that was a weird story arc for a group of high school kids.