It wasn't pretty, but it worked. Vanderbilt got the win they needed to secure bowl eligibility for the third straight year. The Commodores defeated Kentucky 22-6 to improve to 6-4 (3-4 SEC) and keep James Franklin's streak of postseason appearances alive in 2013.
Austyn Carta-Samuels returned to the Commodore lineup on Saturday, but he wasn't able to bring the Vanderbilt offense to life. Fortunately, the Vanderbilt defense - led by redshirt freshman Adam Butler - was able to pick up the slack. The 'Dores forced Wildcat quarterback Jalen Whitlow to throw four interceptions and battered the UK offensive line in the trenches to bully their way to a grinding win. The victory snapped the team's 15-game streak of scoring at least 24 points per game.
Jordan Matthews had 12 receptions and 141 yards on Saturday. He recorded his second straight 1,000 yard season, making him the first Commodore to ever achieve that feat. Jerron Seymour added 78 rushing yards for the 'Dores, but failed to score a touchdown for the first time since October 5th.
Kentucky struck first, going 75 yards on their opening drive to put the Commodores on their heels. However, their momentum dissipated as soon as Butler blocked the ensuing extra point. Steven Clarke scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the UK end zone to make it 6-2 early on. Two possessions later, Andre Hal picked off Jalen Whitlow to set the Commodores up in Wildcat territory. That drive looked like it would stall out when the 'Dores faced third-and-five, but Brian Kimbrow put together one of the best runs of his NCAA career in a dipping and dodging 21-yard touchdown run.
Vanderbilt appeared to push their lead to 15-6 in the second quarter when Jerron Seymour ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run, but the play was called back due to a block in the back. The 'Dores lost another scoring opportunity when Carey Spear uncharacteristically pushed a field goal wide left in the third quarter. However, he'd redeem himself with a pair of fourth quarter field goals that iced this game for Vandy. The 'Dores added some style points when Patton Robinette closed out the scoring with a jump-pass touchdown to Kris Kentera with less than a minute left in the game.
Defensive tackle Adam Butler came up big to lift a team that recorded just 313 yards of total offense. Butler had a blocked PAT, two passes swatted down at the line of scrimmage, and two tackles for loss in his best effort as a Commodore. Kenny Ladler, Andre Hal, Paris Head, and Andrew Williamson all had interceptions in the win as well.
Vanderbilt will return to the field next week to face hated rival Tennessee. A win over the Volunteers would give the 'Dores a 4-4 conference record and prevent UT from clinching a bowl bid in 2013.