Minutes after Vanderbilt kicker Joseph Bulovas netted a winning 31-yard field goal on Saturday, fireworks exploded over Vanderbilt Stadium. For this football team, which had lost eight consecutive home games since 2019 and had a winless season in 2020, any victory is cause for celebration.
Commodores coach Clark Lea praised how his team won this game. Yes, the opponent was winless UConn (0-6), one of the worst teams in FBS. Yes, Vanderbilt lost 11 points in the final minutes.
But the Commodores (2-3) did not give up. After a touchdown allowed the Huskies to increase by one point, Vanderbilt stopped the 2-point conversion, ran the field in less than a minute, to the 13-yard line. After UConn tried to freeze Bulovas with three consecutive timeouts, he gave the kick and the Commodores won 30-28. It was Bulovas’ second winning placement this season.
“A win like this tonight is important,” said Lea. “We took a punch there at the end of the game, but… I’m really proud that we didn’t flinch, I was proud of Ken Seals and the coaches and offensive players to be gone. out there and running on a two minute ride to put us in position to win and I’m proud of Joe for pulling it off.
“So while there will be some improvements needed and as ugly as this sometimes was, we will have an ugly victory and above all one where I feel that the character of this football team shone at the end.”
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With 1:07 to go, the Commodores alone got the ball 40. Two incompleteness and a 6-yard pass left Vanderbilt up against the fourth and fourth. Convert four yards or the game is over. Quarterback Seals found wide receiver Devin Boddie for 19 yards.
Throughout the game, the passing plays were more explosive than they had been before as the Commodores made some big plays with talented wide receivers Will Sheppard and Chris Pierce.
“We specifically said before the game that we were going to take a lot more punches this game, and we had a bunch of games that we worked on throughout practice this week and I think we just performed them. at the level we need to run them to, ”Sheppard said.
But this time it was Boddie, who had already caught a 33-yard catch. Seals found his favorite target, Pierce, nine yards out, then attempted to find him and caused a pass interference. According to Lea, the team expected UConn to return to the second cover they played in passing and used that to find downline success.
The 15-yard penalty put the Commodores on 11. Seals, pleased with Bulovas’ chances, took a knee.
“I basically knew when it was going to come back to me or when our placement unit was when… they went up after that score,” Bulovas said. “So after that I come back to my process, I’m a creature of habit, so I go back to exactly how I deal with every opportunity I may or may not have, so they dropped the ball and luckily with all of them. the hard work of the offense, they put us in a good position and even an excellent position: a 31-yard field goal to win the game, it could very well have been 55. “
Bulovas, who security Maxwell Worship said the other players call “Big Leg Joe” because of their confidence in his ability to do clutch kicks, did another one and set off the fireworks display. .
Ultimately, the Seals-led offense came when Vanderbilt needed it most.
“What we needed was Ken to step up and play with confidence, going on this ride he had a look in his eye that he was determined to do and he stepped in in a big moment for us and I want to celebrate that, ”said Léa.