NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NC State outgained Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl by nearly 200 yards, but the Wolfpack's five turnovers allowed the Commodores to coast to a 38-24 victory.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon was picked off three times, while the Pack (7-6, 4-4 ACC) fumbled six times, two of which the opposing team recovered. That, along with some significant field position woes and nine penalties for 90 yards, negated the fact that the Red and White outgained their opponents in total yards, 424-225.
"To be honest, that's coaching and I take the blame for that. We hurt ourselves and, when you play against a team like Vanderbilt, you can't make mistakes like that," interim head coach Dana Bible said. "Nobody wanted to do that, nobody was remiss in that area, but we practiced hard through December to make sure ball security was right at the top [of the priority list]. Obviously, we didn't get that done.
"Two of those interceptions, I'm going to put them on me. I put [Glennon] in a position to fail. He was dong what he was coached him to do. I wanted him to try to drive it and try to make the throw.
"We weren't going to play it safe, we weren't going to play back on this thing. We were going to attacking and, if they made a play, more power to them. We were going to be aggressive in our approach, so most of those picks are on me for the play call."
Vanderbilt (9-4, 5-3 SEC) won the coin toss, and opted to receive the opening kickoff. They marched down the field in 10 plays and capped the scoring drive with a five-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Rodgers to Chris Boyd, who made an impressive one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone. The play was originally ruled incomplete, but after a review, the call was reversed.
NC State was not as fortunate with their first possession, they punted after a 12-play drive that netted just 19 yards, and then turned the ball over on their next three drives.
"I think we had a good rhythm, but it was just the drive would end in a turnover or something along those lines, and that kills the drive," Glennon said. "I don't think we punted the ball much. It wasn't about going three-and-out. It was just a matter of turning the ball over."
The 'Dores extended their lead to 14-0 in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown run from Zac Stacy. State answered with their first touchdown of the game after an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that ended with a one-yard plunge from redshirt sophomore running back Tony Creecy, but they could not keep the momentum going.
Vanderbilt quickly responded with another seven points, thanks to a seven-yard run by Wesley Tate that found paydirt. The tide looked like it might be turning when redshirt senior Tobais Palmer returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a score to make it 21-14 and the Pack followed by forcing a punt, but the game would not stay a one-score affair for long.
Glennon threw an interception on the first play of the drive, and Vanderbilt wasted no time turning that turnover into seven points after they took over at the 18-yard line. Two plays after forcing the miscue, Rodgers hooked up with Jordan Matthews for an 18-yard score, and the Pack missed a 44-yard field goal attempt as the first half expired.
The Pack started the third quarter with the ball, but that drive also ended with an interception, Glennon's third on the day, that Vanderbilt turned into a score. Eight plays after the pick, Carey Spear connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it 31-14.
"Vanderbilt came out and executed, made plays," fifth-year senior Earl Wolff said. "They had a great team. They came out and they were better today."
State forced a punt and missed field goal from 44 yards away before putting three points on the scoreboard to open the fourth quarter, courtesy of a 24-yard kick from Niklas Sade. The Red and White limited their opponents to five yards on seven plays on the ensuing possession, but could not convert on a fourth-and-four play from their own 44-yard line and turned the ball over on downs.
Vanderbilt extended their lead with a quarterback keeper from 15 yards away to make it 38-17. State's final points of the day came on a 19-yard strike from Glennon to Rashard Smith with just over two minutes left in regulation, but State was unable to recover the onsides kick and Vanderbilt ran out the clock.
"We're disappointed, but proud," Bible said. "This group of seniors did a special job the last five-to-six weeks, and I think they distinguished themselves that way. We played hard; played against a good team. Congratulations to Vanderbilt, but we are disappointed."
Although Glennon's career has come to the close — and he departs as one of the school's most successful signal callers ever despite starting for just two seasons — he thinks that the program is in great shape for the future.
"I would imagine that they are going to be in a good position," he said. "I am sure the new coach will do a good job. I think we have a lot of talent coming back, and hopefully they will continue to improve, get better this offseason and have a great year next year."