The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, has come a long way since its first year in 1998, where it featured a Virginia Tech blowout of Alabama on a cold and rainy day in front of 41,000 at Vanderbilt Stadium. Since that time Nashville’s bowl game has produced a number of exciting games, and moved up the ladder in the bowl game hierarchy, to a point this year that it features two of the biggest name teams in college football, Notre Dame and LSU.
As the city gets ready for the 2014 Music City Bowl, and the excitement it brings to the city for an entire week, we look back at some the most exciting moments in Music City Bowl history and rank our top three games.
No. 3 Florida State vs. Kentucky, 2007
The 2007 game featured a pair of teams who has spent time in the Top 20 that year, with Kentucky reaching as high as No. 8 earlier in the year and both teams had exciting experience quarterbacks leading their team. Kentucky’s Andre Woodson turned in his second consecutive MVP performance in the game, tossing four touchdowns. Florida State entered the game shorthanded after a number of players were suspended in an academic scandal, leaving a number of young players to step up.
After the game was tied at halftime, Kentucky eventually built a 35-21 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The Florida State offense, which had been living on the edge all game made a final push. The Seminoles’ Drew Wetherford found Greg Carr to bring the game within one score.
The Florida State defense then forced a punt to get the ball back, and a Wetherford pass attempt in the final minute was intercepted by Kentucky’s Michah Johnson. That appeared to clinch the game, but during the run back, Johnson fumbled the ball and Florida State recovered. That set up one last play with a throw to the end zone, which was narrowly missed before being knocked away by Kentucky’s David Jones to seal the win.
No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. Boston College, 2008
While it wasn’t the prettiest game ever played it was certainly exciting, especially for the hometown Vanderbilt Commodores which were making their first post season bowl appearance in 26 years and looking for their first winning season since 1982. Boston College entered the game a four point favorite and coming off a loss in the ACC Championship game.
Vanderbilt’s offense struggled during the game, managing only a pair of field goals in the first half but it was the Commodores’ special teams and defense that would go on to make this a special day in the history of Commodore football. Coming out of half time down 7-6, the Vanderbilt offense was again forced to punt early in the third quarter.
The punt hit a Boston College returner near the goal line and bounced into the end zone where Sean Richardson pounced on it for the only Vanderbilt touchdown of the game, and giving the Commodores a 13-7 advantage they would hold onto until 6:38 left in the game. Boston College’s Colin Larmond caught a 55 yard touchdown to put the Eagles back on top. Vanderbilt worked its way back before having a late drive stall. Bryant Hahnfeldt, came on to boot a 48-yard field goal with 3:26 remaining and give Vanderbilt the 16-13 lead.
That lead and Vanderbilt’s first bowl win in 53 years appeared to be in doubt as the Eagles began marching down the field in the final minutes of the game. Vanderbilt’s defense came thought one more time though, like it had many times already that season, to seal the victory when Myron Lewis picked off Boston College’s Dominique Davis’ pass with 1:36 to play.
No. 1 Tennessee vs. North Carolina, 2010
Without question the most exciting game in Music City Bowl history is the 2010 game between North Carolina and Tennessee. In front of the largest audience in bowl history, 69, 143, fans witnessed a close game throughout with one of the most bizarre endings in college football.
Down 17-14 to start the fourth quarter, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray found Justin Hunter in the end zone for a touchdown with 5:16 remaining. The point after attempt was missed though, leaving UNC down only three 20-17. After a failed drive that ended on a near-miss fourth down catch, the Tar Heels got the ball back from Tennessee with just over :30 second remaining and 80 yards to go. After a completion to mid-field and a penalty by Tennessee, UNC moved to the 25 with :16 remaining. They ran the ball to the 18 and stayed in bounds, with no timeouts.
In a state of confusion, the field goal unit ran out on the field for a kick, but the quarterback was trying to spike the ball. With the clock running down, UNC spiked ran a play to spike the ball despite having almost 20 players on the field.
At the time, officials said the play didn’t get off in time and declared the game over as Tennessee players celebrated. The officials got together and later determined the game was not over, there was in fact one second remaining. North Carolina then kicked a 40 yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, UNC scored first with a touchdown and Tennessee answered with a Bray TD toss to Luke Stocker who made a diving one-handed catch to force a second overtime period. In the second overtime, Bray had a pass attempt intercepted near the goal line. North Carolina then kicked a 23-yard field goal to win 30-27.
Because of the truly bizarre ending to regulation in the 2010 game, the NCAA instituted a new rule beginning the following season that any team committing an offensive penalty in that situation, a 10-second runoff would be assessed in addition to penalty yardage unless the offensive team took a timeout. Had the rule been in place a year prior, because North Carolina had no timeouts at the time, the game would have ended in regulation with Tennessee winning 20-17.