Ke’Shawn Vaughn went 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter, sending the Commodores on their way to a 38-0 victory over ETSU in a non-conference football game Saturday.
“It was a momentum killer, for sure,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said of Vaughn’s decisive play. “That one hurt.”
The Bucs hung around with their Southeastern Conference foe for the first half and had to feel good as the third quarter began despite being down 14-0.
After Landon Kunak’s second-half kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback, Vaughn ruined ETSU’s day. The senior running back took a handoff and broke through the first line of defense. He then outraced everybody else down the left sideline and 13 seconds into the second half, Vanderbilt was up 21-0.
The one-play, 75-yard scoring drive was demoralizing to the Bucs, who picked up just one first down in the third quarter and gained a grand total of nine yards in the second half.
“No question, 14-0 at halftime, I thought we had done some good things in the first half,” Sanders said. “We talked about getting a stop and making something happen. Then one play, we just get one guy in the wrong gap and when you do that against a good back, things like that happen.”
After Vaughn’s big run, Vanderbilt began to assert itself, scoring on a 40-yard field goal by Ryley Guay and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Riley Neal to Jared Pinkney for a 31-0 lead after three quarters.
The Bucs held Vaughn to 40 yards in the first half, but he finished with 139 yards on 14 carries. That gave him 1,015 for the season.
“We came out at halftime and we hadn’t done much in the second half, so to be able to score 17 points in the third quarter, that’s what we needed,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said.
An announced crowd of 19,863 watched Vanderbilt improve to 3-8 on a gloomy, damp afternoon. The Commodores close their season Saturday at Tennessee.
ETSU finished Sanders’ second season at the helm with a 3-9 record. It was the first time the Bucs were shut out since a 31-0 defeat at Wofford in 2016.
“I felt like we could play toe-to-toe with them,” said safety Artevius Smith, who led the Bucs with eight tackles. “It just got out of hand.”
The Bucs’ only foray deep into Vanderbilt territory resulted in no points. Facing a fourth-and-one from the Vanderbilt 12-yard line in the second quarter, Sanders decided to attempt a field goal. Tyler Keltner’s kick was blocked and the Commodores went 74 yards on the ensuing drive. It was capped by Vaughn’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
The Commodores had opened the scoring on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Neal to Pinkney on their first possession. Their final score came on a 31-yard touchdown run by Mitchell Pryor in the closing minutes.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
ETSU’s Quay Holmes, who rushed for a school-record 255 yards last week against Mercer, was held to 10 yards on 11 carries. He had four yards on six carries in the first half. The Bucs managed 37 rushing yards on 35 tries.
“They’re a big team,” Holmes said. “They’re an SEC team and they’re going to have those bigger, longer players. They matched up pretty well against us.”
BY THE NUMBERS
ETSU, which played all three quarterbacks on the roster, completed just six passes. Trey Mitchell and Tyler Riddell basically split time before giving way to Chance Thrasher, who closed it out.
Mitchell was 5 of 12 for 50 yards while Riddell was 1 of 5 for 18 yards.
Neal completed 16 of 24 passes for 179 yards for the Commodores, who outgained ETSU in total offense, 418-105. Vanderbilt averaged 7.3 yards per play while the Bucs averaged 2.0.
SOCON VS. SEC
Three Southern Conference teams took on Southeastern Conference opponents on Saturday. In addition to the ETSU-Vanderbilt game, Western Carolina lost 66-3 to Alabama and Samford fell 52-0 to Auburn.
ANOTHER SEC FOE
Vanderbilt was the second SEC team the Bucs played in the past two years, in addition to last season’s game at Tennessee. They get another one next season when they travel to face Georgia in the second game.
ETSU earned $390,000 for Saturday’s game and is scheduled to pick up $415,000 for its return visit to Nashville in 2021. Georgia is paying $550,000 next season.