Vanderbilt got a much-needed, rare SEC road win against conference rookie Missouri Saturday night.
In the Commodores' case, it wasn't how, it was how many.
The 19-15 decision forced Vanderbilt to make plays until the game clock expired. It was their defense that stood tall when it counted.
Missouri was playing without freshman wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, one of three freshmen players suspended for the game after being caught by campus police allegedly smoking marijuana.
Unquestionably, the biggest blow to the Tigers was the loss of star quarterback James Franklin in the first half. Franklin suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and watched the game in street clothes in the second half.
Franklin was making plays in the first half and it was easy to see that the Tigers offense depends on him to make plays through the air and on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser came out of the bullpen for Mizzou and connected on nine of 30 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown that made it 16-15 in the fourth quarter. But Vanderbilt's defense kept pressure on Berkstresser, forcing him to hurry throws or suffer sacks.
Missouri managed to outgain the Commoddores, 395 to 295 yards on the night, but Vanderbilt's defense kept bending, but not breaking.
Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel also won't find much to like about his special teams when he watches the game film. The Tigers punter Trey Barrow fumbled a snap out of the end zone to give Vanderbilt a two-point safety in the first quarter.
In the final quarter, after the Tigers had pulled to within 16-15, a botched snap on the point after prevented them from tying the game.
The Tigers comedy of errors was reminiscent of former Vanderbilt teams that could concoct a maddening variety of ways to lose games.
On a day and a season in which teams are putting up silly numbers on scoreboards around the country, this was an even-steven matchup between teams that have to scratch and claw for every point they can claim.
Both Vanderbilt and Missouri entered the game ranked near the bottom of all FBS teams on third down conversions. And if you can't convert on third downs, odds are you don't score that many points.
In this game, that trend continued. Vanderbilt made good on only 5 of 16 third down attempts while Missouri moved the chains on 7 of 19 plays.
Vanderbilt leaned heavily on its ground game, running the football a season high 43 times. It produced only 89 yards, but it shortened the game and led to running back Zac Stacy's two touchdown runs.
In this game, points were golden.
It was 9-6 at halftime, which could have been confused with a Major League playoff score instead of a college football game.
Vanderbilt came in 1-3 and seeking its first SEC victory of the season and its third in two years under Franklin. The Tigers weren't easy prey, but the Commodores were game. The upset gave Vanderbilt a needed shot in the arm as it tries to back up Franklin's claim that there is indeed a culture change evolving on West End.
They will need some carryover, as a powerful Florida team hits Music City Saturday. The 5-0 Gators are coming off a slugfest upset over LSU at the Swamp and Vanderbilt could catch them still celebrating as they are expected to be ranked in the top five teams in the country.
It's just another test in James Franklin's evolution process.
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at email@example.com.