Vanderbilt Returns To Form in Decisive Victory Over Ole Miss

David RutzCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2010

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 7: Running back Warren Norman #27 of the Vanderbilt Commodores rushes upfield against the Florida Gators on November 7, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Robbie Caldwell called Vanderbilt's game against Ole Miss a business trip.

The Commodores left from Nashville on a bus the morning of the game, rolled into Oxford at 9 a.m. and rolled out with their first win in nearly a year, 28-14 over the West division rival Rebels.

Calling it a business trip seemed appropriate, because Vanderbilt looked shockingly crisp the final three quarters of this game.

With a return to form from 2008 with hard-nosed defense, big plays when they needed it from the offense, outstanding special teams work and no turnovers, the Commodores played within themselves and won a game they deserved to win.

Not to mention, they won a game that snapped a host of ugly skids, including a 10-game losing streak overall and a 10-game SEC losing streak dating back nearly two years.

Well, the Commodores deserved this one. Caldwell got the game ball from his players at the end, but all three phases of the team were in top form in this game, especially the defense, who stood tall against the Rebels through the first quarter when the Commodores had terrible trouble moving the ball in their own right.

A 96-yard touchdown drive, with a great mixture of pass and run that played to Vanderbilt's strengths on offense, took some pressure off.

But perhaps the most telling moment came in the third quarter, when the Rebels appeared to be making a comeback.

After Ole Miss tied the game on Jeremiah Masoli's terrific touchdown run in the third quarter, the Commodores didn't hesitate to respond, with Warren Norman blasting through a wide hole for an 80-yard score.

It was a huge play that turned the momentum of the game firmly back toward Vanderbilt. The Rebels couldn't finish any drives; the work-in-progress offense of the Commodores didn't do much the rest of the game either, but it took care of the football.

The Rebels were hampered by drops, mistakes (the worst a terrible throw by Masoli that Eddie Foster intercepted for a touchdown) and a missed chip-shot field goal, and Masoli's athleticism wasn't enough to overcome it.

Houston Nutt was the picture of frustration on the sidelines, while Caldwell ran around smashing high-fves.

Maybe the only non-businesslike portion of the trip came at the end, when Caldwell was doused with Gatorade by co-captain Adam Smotherman. He deserved it; this was, after all, a victory over 30 years in the making for a man who's spent over half his life coaching.

While Nutt paced off the field with the echos of Rebel boos in his ears, Caldwell could revel in his Commodores singing the alma mater at game's end with the Vanderbilt contingent in attendance.

They were two coaches who were 1-2, but one of them was preparing to feel some serious heat from angry fans, and the other was breathless with excitement.

For Vanderbilt, it was a start. The passing game still needs a lot of work, the penalties have to be cut down. But it was a start nonetheless.

And perhaps the start to a winning streak.

With a much-needed bye week, Vanderbilt's first since 2008, the banged-up Commodores can concentrate on getting healthy and enjoy their spot in the middle of the SEC East.

And that hasn't been business as usual for a long time.