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Welcome to a new day of Vanderbilt football

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The older gentleman operating the elevator Saturday night at the Vanderbilt Stadium press box offered a proud smile.

Frank Hood, who's been watching Vanderbilt play (mostly bad) football for the last 45 years, offered up what the entire Commodore Nation had to be thinking.

Vanderbilt had just beaten Auburn, 14-13, once again dominating the second half and making every key play, to go to 5-0 for the first time since 1943.

"You remember all those games Vanderbilt would fold?" asked Hood, not really giving anybody a chance to answer. "Not this year and not this team."

This is not your father's Vanderbilt or even your grandfather's Vanderbilt.

This is a Vanderbilt that we haven't seen since, well, Dan McGugin was running the show. For the record, McGugin's last season as Vanderbilt's head coach was 1934.

So, when a television reporter hit Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson with the proverbial, "You know this is the biggest win in the program's history," Johnson was plenty quick on his feet.

Sort of like his defense in the second half against Auburn.

"I don't know about that," said Johnson, still soaked from the Gatorade shower he received on the field. "Back in Dan McGugin's age, they were beating people 50-0."

Johnson then nodded to The Tennessean's Joe Biddle, who's been covering sports in Nashville for nearly 30 years, and quipped, "Ask Joe. He was there."

In other words, who can say if it was the biggest win in Vanderbilt history? It was certainly one of them.

The Commodores (5-0, 3-0 SEC) were on a national stage and delivered the kind of surgical performance that has epitomized this team this season.

They're not overwhelming on offense or defense, but they get stronger in the second half. Those 30 minutes might as well be written in black and gold if you play the Commodores.

They play as a team, capitalize on their opportunities, make all of the necessary adjustments and always seem to make something happen on special teams.

"We'll gather all that information up at the end of the season and see how we do," said Johnson, responding to where this win and this team should rank in the history of Vanderbilt football. "We've still got a lot of work to do and we're going to try and get better.

"That's the thing about it. We need to get better. We'll see better offenses and we'll see better defenses probably. We'll hang in there and find a way to get better, and find a way to win."

Not to jinx the Commodores, but they need just two more wins to end a drought of 25 straight losing seasons. The last time they went to a bowl was 1982. They haven't won a bowl game since 1955.

And, yes, there were several bowl scouts hanging around as Johnson chatted with the media Saturday night.

"The thing about all this is that there's still a lot more we want to do," redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Marve said. "We made a statement with this win, but there are a lot more statements we want to make."

One message that should ring loud and clear about this Vanderbilt team is that it plays to win. That was never more apparent than the second half Saturday when the Commodores kept the defensive pressure on the Tigers.

Auburn, in jumping out to a 13-0 lead, had 126 yards of total offense in the first quarter -- but only 82 yards the rest of the way. Even after the Commodores went ahead, they kept coming with different blitzes and different defensive looks.

"We stay aggressive. We don't go into a shell because somebody's moving the ball," said Johnson, whose Commodores have now outscored their opponents 58-10 in the second half. "We kept going at them, and I think it paid off."

Senior safety Reshard Langford said to expect nothing less the rest of the season.

"That's how we practice, and that's how we play," Langford said. "We're a close-knit group, and we play for each other. We know how good we are. Maybe other people will see it now."