NASHVILLE -- Vanderbilt unleashed a 21-point explosion in just over two minutes on the clock to ensure its first win of the season, defeating cross-town school Tennessee State University Tigers 38-9. It was the two schools first meeting.
Quarterback Chris Nickson had a strong day, completing 9 of 13 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore threw one interception and rushed for 49 yards and another touchdown. Redshirt freshman quarterback Mackenzi Adams saw his first career action late in the fourth quarter, orchestrating a 11-play, 66-yard touchdown drive capped by a six-yard run by fellow redshirt-freshman Jared Hawkins. It was Hawkins' first career touchdown.
Junior tailback Cassen Jackson-Garrison led the 'Dores on the ground with 14 carries for 71 yards, followed by redshirt freshman Jared Hawkins, who ran for 54 yards and a touchdown.
While the Commodore offense had a good night, the defense was stellar. Defensive Coordinator Bruce Fowler's squad was led by redshirt junior Curtis Gatewood, who had six unassisted tackles (nine total), one sack for a six-yard loss, and one quarterback hurry. Redshirt junior Kevin Joyce and redshirt junior Jonathan Goff each recorded a sack, and redshirt sophomore Reshard Langford had an interception and a fumble recovery.
Vanderbilt started its first drive of the game with good field position, but failed to score when sophomore place kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt's 19-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide to the left. The next Commodore drive also stalled deep in Tiger territory, but the 'Dores finally got on the board when quarterback Chris Nickson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to senior Marlon White later in the first quarter. Hahnfeldt kicked a 26-yard field goal on the next possession to make the score 10-0. The Tigers converted an interception into a 25-yard field goal to make the score 10-3 at the end of the half.
The game quickly slipped away from TSU late in the third quarter, a momentum shift that began with a rare interception from within the other team's end zone. Under heavy pressure from linebacker Goff, TSU quarterback Antonio Heffner threw a pass from within his own endzone that was batted and ultimately intercepted by nearby Marcus Buggs for a touchdown. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff led to a Chris Nickson six-yard touchdown run on the next play, making the score 24-3. Then Vanderbilt's Reshard Langford snagged an interception, which led to Nickson's 33-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Earl Bennett in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The extra point ended a 21-point barrage in under 2:15 seconds.
Battling Band The renowned TSU Aristocrat of Bands played with Vanderbilt's Spirit of Gold Marching Band at halftime. However, the two ensembles played in a crammed, tight formation in the north end zone due to deteriorated field conditions.
Back in Action The Commodores end its three-game homestand next Saturday when the Temple Owls come to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. For tickets, which cost only $10, call 615-322-GOLD or visit vucommodores.com.