Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn rushed 17 times for 138 yards and a touchdown, leading the Commodores to a 24-18 victory over visiting Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
The Commodores (1-3, 0-2 SEC) opened up a 14-0 first-quarter lead and never trailed.
The score remained 14-0 until NIU quarterback Ross Bowers hit wide receiver Spencer Tears with a 44-yard pass down the right sideline on the third quarter’s first snap, setting up kicker John Richardson’s 39-yard field goal.
After a Commodores punt, Bowers found tight end Mitchell Brinkman with a strike down the middle. Brinkman shook free from the grasp of inside linebacker Caleb Peart and then raced through a wide-open field for a 38-yard touchdown with 7:01 left in the third quarter.
Vanderbilt punched back when quarterback Riley Neal found wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb open for a 38-yard touchdown off a flea-flicker on its next trip.
The Commodores added a 28-yard field goal from Javan Rice — the first of his career — just after the fourth quarter started to move the score to 24-10.
Bowers then picked on Vanderbilt defensive back Randall Haynie for consecutive completions of 28 and 33 yards to wide receivers Cole Tucker and Tears. A Marcus Jones TD run and a 2-point conversion to a wide-open Brinkman narrowed the lead to 24-18.
NIU (1-3, 0-0 MAC) moved the ball across midfield late in the fourth quarter, but a Bowers fumble cost the Huskies 17 yards. The possession eventually resulted in the punt that helped Vanderbilt salt the game away. Vaughn had a pair of first-down rushes on the final drive, as the Commodores ran out the clock after getting the ball with 3:10 left.
In the first quarter, Vanderbilt running back Keyon Brooks raced 61 yards through a huge hole on the left side to give the Commodores a 7-0 lead after Rice’s point-after just 1:35 into the game.
After an ensuing NIU three-and-out, wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley returned a punt 22 yards to the Huskies 31, which set up Vaughn’s 1-yard scoring run with 8:57 left in the first quarter.
That accounted for all the first-half scoring. The Commodores’ next four drives lasted either three or four plays, while Vandy’s front seven, led by outside linebacker Elijah McAllister (two first-half sacks) pressured Bowers relentlessly while allowing just 140 first-half yards.
NIU outside linebacker Jordan Cole was ejected for targeting for a hit on Vaughn with 1:50 left in the third quarter. Cole entered Saturday as the Huskies’ leading tackler.
—Field Level Media