Vanderbilt wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb caught nine balls for 174 yards, including a game-winning 68-yard touchdown, as the host Commodores held off Tennessee State 31-27 in a nonconference game on Saturday.
The Tigers, who traveled three miles across town, led much of the day. But the Commodores (3-2) got a huge stop on a fourth-and-4 from the Vanderbilt 15-yard line, forcing quarterback Demry Croft to throw the ball away with 1:25 to play.
The Commodores, 28 1/2-point favorites, went ahead for the first time early in the third quarter when quarterback Kyle Shurmur hit Lipscomb on a diving, 38-yard scoring strike with 11:10 left.
One drive later, Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (17 carries, 146 yards) started left, came within about two yards of the sideline, and cut back all the way across the field for an electrifying 78-yard scoring run.
But Croft (22-of-31 passing for 269 yards and three touchdowns, plus nine carries for 41 yards) was a headache all day. He next led the Tigers (2-1) to two touchdowns as Tennessee State re-took the lead at 27-24 on his 1-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Knox with 8:02 left.
Vanderbilt answered when Lipscomb got loose in single coverage along the left sideline and hauled in a 68-yard touchdown from Shurmur with 6:20 to play.
After Tennessee State defensive back Terry Straughter picked off Shurmur on Vandy’s first drive, Tigers cornerback Dajour Nesbeth intercepted the Vandy senior again, this one, about eight yards deep in the end zone. Nesbeth returned it to the Vandy 35.
The Tigers scored on that drive when Croft hit Steven Newbold with a 5-yard pass, putting the Tigers up 7-0.
Vanderbilt finally got untracked on its next drive, with tight end Jared Pinkney making a great catch on a low throw in the end zone from Shurmur for a 4-yard scoring reception. Shurmur passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted twice.
The Tigers punched right back when Croft, with pressure in his face, hit wide receiver Treon Harris with a 31-yard pass, though Antonio Zita missed the point-after attempt.
Vanderbilt’s Ryley Guay hit a 20-yard field goal on the half’s last play, cutting the Tigers’ lead to three.
Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie, the Tigers’ leading tackler, was taken across the street to Vanderbilt hospital following a first-half injury and was still there as the game ended. Initial reports cited a head injury.
—Field Level Media