The Commodores (8-4), who eked out a win at Tennessee in similar comeback fashion last week, recorded their first consecutive eight-win seasons since 1927-28.
An announced crowd of 33,019 saw Vanderbilt finish the regular season with a 4-0 record in November, even though it was far from perfect while falling behind in the second half to the Demon Deacons (4-8).
Vanderbilt trailed 21-20 when it got the ball back for the last time. When Matthews dropped a third-down pass over the middle from Austyn Carta-Samuels that could have given the Commodores a first down, it was fourth-and-11 from the Wake Forest 48.
Carta-Samuels threw it up for grabs along the left sideline, and the 6-foot-3 senior pulled it down between Wake Forest defenders Kevin Johnson and Anthony Wooding at the 23.
Vanderbilt played for the field goal after that, and Wake Forest’s final possession came up empty after defensive end Walker May sacked Tanner Price near midfield in the closing seconds.
Wake Forest linebacker Justin Jackson returned a Carta-Samuels interception 63 yards to give Wake Forest a 21-17 lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter. Vanderbilt could only muster a 25-yard Spear field goal over its next few series until it got the ball back with 3:31 remaining.
The Commodores, who drove 92 yards in the final minutes to beat the Vols, had their opportunities before that. Chase Garnham intercepted Tanner Price and returned it to the Wake Forest 33 with six minutes to play.
Vanderbilt, needing only a field goal to take the lead, gave the ball back three plays later when running back Wesley Tate fumbled at the Wake Forest 28.
Spear’s 41-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the second quarter provided Vanderbilt a 17-14 halftime lead. Vanderbilt appeared to be driving toward its third touchdown after a 23-yard pass from Carta-Samuels to Kris Kentera for a fourth-down conversion, but center Joe Townsend was dinged up on the play.
The Commodores backtracked 23 yards after consecutive bad snaps from backup center Spencer Pulley and eventually settled for three points.
Vanderbilt took a 14-7 lead when backup quarterback Patton Robinette followed fullback Fitz Lassing’s block for an 8-yard touchdown run with 7:33 left in the first half. Robinette, who also had a 20-yard run on the drive, served as the Commodores’ primary rushing threat throughout the first half tallying 45 yards on six carries.
The Demon Deacons converted their own fourth down on Price’s 4-yard run from the Vanderbilt 13 on the ensuing series. The gamble led to Dominique Gibson’s 9-yard touchdown run one play later for a 14-14 tie.
Vanderbilt and Wake Forest traded touchdowns on their opening series. The Commodores marched 88 yards in 11 plays for a 7-0 lead on Lassing’s 7-yard reception from Carta-Samuels. Matthews’41-yard catch keyed the drive and served as his 98th reception of the season, breaking the SEC record held by former Commodore Keith Edwards (97 catches in 1983).
Wake Forest answered by driving 65 yards on 12 plays, utilizing a series of quick passes and quarterback runs from Tanner Price to get Vanderbilt’s defense on its heels. Price’s 3-yard run tied the score at 7.