NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason turned the lights out in the locker room for 10 minutes during a weather delay that lasted for an hour, 44 minutes. He wanted his Commodores to picture themselves playing good football.
Aside from a blocked punt on the first play once the game resumed, Ralph Webb and the Commodores did just that.
Webb ran for a career-high 211 yards and two touchdowns as Vanderbilt easily handled the weather delay and beat Middle Tennessee 47-24 Saturday.
“We did what this team hasn’t done since I’ve been here,” Mason said. “I mean just responded all the way around.”
Vanderbilt (1-1) took control with a 28-point second quarter after trailing 10-5 at the end of the first, the final two TDs coming after the storm. Middle Tennessee blocked a field goal on the first play after resuming the game, setting up Brent Stockstill’s 5-yard TD pass to Ty Lee to pull within 19-17.
The Commodores answered by scoring two TDs in a span of 87 seconds, the last a 3-yard TD by Webb giving him 102 yards before halftime. Vanderbilt also forced two turnovers to win its second straight in this series against an in-state rival.
Stockstill finished with 399 yards passing and three TDs for Middle Tennessee (1-1), which was trying to start 2-0 for the first time since 2001.
Middle Tennessee: Stockstill just keeps getting better with every game, showing a quick release. He had 148 yards passing after the first quarter despite a receiving corps battered by injuries. He set school records completing 38 of 65 attempts, while receiver Richie James caught a school record 14 passes for 183 yards.
But coach Rick Stockstill called it a disappointing loss. “I don’t know if they stopped us in the first half, we just stopped ourselves,” the coach said. “We did some good things, but we just weren’t consistent enough. We have to play smarter than how we played.”
Vanderbilt: The weather delay helped the Commodores’ offense. Kyle Shurmur failed to complete his first seven passes before finally connecting on his eighth after the delay. That was the first of seven straight completions, and Shurmur was 9 of 10 for 79 yards driving Vandy to two TDs before halftime. He finished with 113 yards passing.
Not only did the junior strip the ball away from Richie James on a punt return that led to a Vanderbilt safety, he also hurdled a defender on a 16-yard run. He turned in the best rushing performance since Frank Mordica set the Southeastern Conference record with 321 yards in 1978 and the third best game in school history. “The O-line did their job tonight,” Webb said.
Vanderbilt honored freshman pitcher Donny Everett, the 19-year-old who drowned while fishing June 2, the day before the Commodores hosted an NCAA Tournament regional. Vanderbilt put his No. 41 on helmets, had his parents Teddy and Susan accompany the anchor onto the field before kickoff and played a tribute to Everett on the videoboard between the first and second quarters.
NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS
For a second straight game, Vanderbilt was penalized for sending a kickoff out of bounds. The Commodores also had a punt blocked on the first play back after the storm delay ended, and Stockstill found Ty Lee for a 5-yard TD 36 seconds after play resumed. Middle Tennessee had its issues too with a facemask on a 46-yard kickoff return by Darius Sims, and kicker Canon Rooker clanked a 44-yard field goal off the left upright.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders visit Bowling Green for their second straight road game.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores visit Georgia Tech for the first of a two-game road swing.
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