Cunningham ESPN ranking
Oct 15, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) is tackled by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) and defensive back Bryce Lewis (30) during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Vandy played one hell of a game on Saturday as they pulled off the upset in Athens, beating the Georgia Bulldogs, 17-16. The Dores defense stepped up when it needed to and Derek Mason was able to get his first SEC road win as head coach.

This win will single handedly save Mason’s job and end the hot seat talk for the Vanderbilt coach.

Simply put, a defining win for this Vanderbilt football program.

Here are 3 Reasons Why: Vandy pulled off the upset vs Georgia

Zach Cunningham

One man and one tackle sealed the victory for Vanderbilt with 56 seconds to play. Cunningham, who had a total of 19 tackles on the day, came up and stuffed Georgia RB Isaiah McKenzie on 4th & 1 to halt the Bulldogs attempt at a comeback win. Kirby Smart decided to take the ball out of Nick Chubb’s hand and ultimately it cost him.

Cunningham’s game was not just defined by one singular play. He was all over the field throughout the day as he made play after defensive play for the Dores.

“I knew we had one play to get and I just went out there and gave my all, it felt amazing,” Cunningham said. “It was a game we really wanted to win.”

3rd & 12

The 8 play, 75 yard drive with 9:43 remaining in the 4th quarter gave Vandy the lead. Capped off by a Khari Blasingame one yard touchdown run, the biggest offensive play of the drive was this 3rd & 12 screen pass to Ralph Webb.

Webb had been nursing an ankle injury throughout the week and Georgia was able to hold him to just 48 yards rushing. Webb may have been held in check on the ground but the 37 yard screen pass put Vanderbilt in scoring position to take the lead.

The past two weeks the storyline has been Vanderbilt coming from behind only to fall short. Saturday it was about holding onto the lead and sealing the victory.

Derek Mason

Like it or not Vandy fans, this win saves Derek Mason’s job.

All of the talk about not winning on the road in the SEC goes away. The talk about not having a signature win disappears. This victory will buy Derek Mason time to get his offense right and try to climb the SEC East ladder in the coming years.

Say what you will about Derek Mason but one thing is for sure, he’s a damn good defensive coach. Finally his team was put in a position to defend a lead and they came through.

This was an emotional win.

The Commodores are now three wins away from becoming bowl eligible and if they’re able to achieve that goal, this year will be a success for Mason and Vanderbilt as a whole.