Commodore comeback: VU 24, UConn 21
Vanderbilt is 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) --
James Franklin is bringing a new mindset to the Vanderbilt Commodores,
and he refuses to even let them think about letting a game slip away as
this program has so many times in the past.
Carey Spear kicked a
31-yard field goal with 2:56 left, and the Commodores rallied from
21-14 down in the fourth quarter and beat the Connecticut Huskies 24-21
Saturday night for their first winning streak since 2008.
went down the sideline and reminded the whole team: This is the 2011
Vanderbilt. This is the 2011 Vanderbilt. This is the 2011 Vanderbilt,"
Franklin said. "Over and over and over again. We have been talking
about it since Dec. 17. So we weren't going to allow that to happen.
They invested too much. They have put too much into it, and we were
going to find a way to persevere."
The victory gives Franklin a 2-0 start, the first by a Vandy coach since Fred Pancoast in 1975.
Fugger had two of Vanderbilt's five sacks, and the Commodores forced
four turnovers, all by Johnny McEntee. Senior Casey Hayward picked off
a McEntee pass at midfield, then weaved his way back across the field
to finish off a 50-yard return. His first career interception return
for a TD tied it at 21 apiece with 6:45 left.
think McEntee would throw to his side of the field. When he did,
Hayward took the ball and looked for the end zone.
"If you get a pick, Coach says not to go out of bounds, try to go and score. And that is what I tried to do," Hayward said.
UConn (1-1) lost its second straight road opener despite the defense sacking Larry Smith seven times and forcing two turnovers.
can't go on the road in I-A football and make the number of mistakes we
made," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "It's very, very hard to
overcome the number of turnovers, although our defense did a good job
with creating some turnovers tonight."
The Huskies had one last
chance to try and tie the game, but Rob Lohr sacked McEntee on third
down. McEntee overthrew Isiah Moore on fourth down, giving the ball
back to Vandy to run out the clock and start celebrating a rare winning
start. It also marked the Commodores' first comeback win over a Bowl
Championship Series team since downing Boston College in the 2008 Music
The Commodores came out in pregame warm-ups with gold
helmets, then came out for the kickoff with black helmets, putting them
in all black. They hadn't used black helmets since 1990, and Franklin
broke the news to them Thursday. They came out fired up in what turned
into a defensive slugfest with 12 combined sacks, two returns for TDs
and a blocked punt for a TD.
Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy said they hope to wear the black helmets again.
"We like it," Stacy said.
took the opening kickoff and rotated three players at quarterback. Lyle
McCombs picked up where he left off last week, when he rushed for 141
yards, but he couldn't do it all. He ran 10 times for 74 yards in the
first quarter only to finish with 118 yards on 27 carries. Dave Teggert
kicked two field goals, and Byron Jones blocked a punt and recovered it
in the end zone for a TD.
Huskies linebacker Sio Moore had 3 ½
sacks and forced a fumble that Yawin Smallwood picked up and returned
64 yards for a touchdown that put UConn up 21-14 after McEntee found
Ryan Griffin for the 2-point conversion with 10:34 left.
hit Smith repeatedly and even knocked him out of the game briefly. But
the senior kept returning, and he threw for 140 yards and one TD. He
also had only two turnovers as Vandy outgained UConn 259-193 in total
"Is (Larry) sore?" Franklin said. "Yes, but a lot of our guys are. He's a football player."
Kenny Ladler set up Vandy's first TD, diving in front of Kashif Moore
to pick off a pass by McEntee at the Huskies 42. Vanderbilt went for
the end zone on the next play with Smith finding Chris Boyd in stride
for a 42-yard TD pass down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead with 5:54
The Commodores drove 80 yards on their next drive with
Smith connecting with John Cole for a 31-yard completion on
third-and-11 at the Vandy 19. Freshman Jerron Seymour capped the drive,
running 40 yards for a TD even as UConn was flagged for having a 12th
man on the field in a substitution penalty for a 14-3 lead at halftime.
best chance to score came in the third when Vandy linebacker Chris
Marve knocked a McEntee pass away from Griffin at the back of the end
The Huskies seemed to turn the game in the second half as
they hit Smith so hard he left the game for a few plays, replaced by
Jordan Rodgers. That helped back Vanderbilt up near its own goal line,
and Jones blocked Richard Kent's punt and recovered it in the end zone
for the touchdown that pulled UConn within 14-13 midway through the
third quarter. It was the first blocked punt for a TD by the Huskies
Notes: Franklin said after the game that starting
left guard Jabo Burrow's career is over after the junior had been
dealing with injuries. Senior tight end Brandon Barden, who was on
crutches and wore a boot on his left leg, will undergo tests.