After a slow start in the first quarter for both Vanderbilt and North Carolina State, the Wolfpack found a groove and picked up a 41-17 win over the Commodores in the 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl.
Vandy kept it close by narrowing the score in the fourth quarter to 28-17 after Khari Blasingame scored on a one-yard touchdown. NC State returned fire however, scoring on a kickoff return by Nyheim Hines. That was soon followed by a pick six at the horn by Niles Clark, capping the game off on a sour note for Vanderbilt.
NC State QB Ryan Finley completed 19 of 30 passes for 235 yards. Finley mostly targeted Jaylen Samuels, who was the Most Valuable Player on offense, setting an Independence Bowl record in the process with three touchdowns, with six receptions for 104 yards to boot.
And the defense wasn't too bad, either. The Wolfpack’s Airius Moore, the defensive MVP, led them with nine tackles and two sacks, slowing Vandy on down and keeping their offense to a minimum.
Vanderbilt struggled offensively throughout the game and couldn't quite get it together. Coming in, Vandy was a team with great momentum, scoring 83 points in their last two games against Ole Miss and Tennessee. However, the Commodores got off to sloppy start and couldn’t quite recover. Kyle Shurmur came away with three interceptions on the night in one of the poorest performances of his season.
Ralph Webb, on the other hand, had a great game despite the limited offense. The junior running back rushed for 111 yards with one touchdown, setting a school record after the game as he finished the season with 1,283 rushing yards. The aforementioned Shurmur completed 19 of 46 passes for 158 yards along with those three picks.
Vanderbilt should feel good about their season overall though. Who would’ve thought that Vanderbilt would make it to a bowl game at the beginning of the year? Coach Derek Mason should give himself a pat on the back after three seasons of trying to rebuild in Nashville. This is a great confidence builder for Vanderbilt on the whole, and I only see the team getting better next season.