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Vandy pulls away after halftime to beat ETSU

Joe Avento • Nov 23, 2019 at 10:52 PM

NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt needed just 13 seconds to quash any hopes East Tennessee State had of an upset.

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 nonconference football game Saturday.

“It was a momentum killer, for sure,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said of the 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 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 had just one first down in the third quarter and gained a grand total of 9 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 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.

The Commodores (3-8) close their season Saturday at Tennessee.

ETSU finished Sanders’ second season at the helm 3-9. The Bucs suffered their first shutout 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 fourth-and-1 from the Vanderbilt 12 in the second quarter, Sanders decided to attempt a field goal. The Commodores blocked Tyler Keltner’s kick, and then went 74 yards on their 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 Mitchell Pryor’s 31-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes.


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 4 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.”


ETSU, which played all three of its quarterbacks, completed just six passes. Trey Mitchell and Tyler Riddell basically split time before giving way to Chance Thrasher.

Mitchell was 5-for-12 passing for 50 yards, and Riddell was 1-for-5 for 18 yards.

Neal completed 16 of 24 passes for 179 yards for the Commodores, who outgained ETSU 418-105. Vanderbilt averaged 7.3 yards per play to the Bucs’ 2.0.


Vanderbilt was the second SEC team the Bucs played in the past two years; they played at Tennessee last season. They get another one next season when they travel to face Georgia in the second week.

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.