Sluggish most of the penalty-filled first half, the
Commodores (4-4) broke open a seven-point game with two late first-half touchdowns in 55 seconds. They added four touchdowns in the third quarter to claim successive wins for the first time since starting 3-0 last year.
Along with an interception return for a score by Trey Wilson, Jonathan Krause returned a punt 40 yards to the end zone. It marked the first time a Vanderbilt punt return went the distance since 1999.
Massachusetts (0-8) remains winless in its first year in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy, the school's all-time rushing leader, exited five minutes into the game with an injury. He later returned to the sideline wearing a splint on his right ankle.
Leading just 7-0, Rodgers helped wake up the Commodores with a 25-yard touchdown pass to
Kris Kentera with 1:53 left in the first half. After a fumble by UMass on the ensuing kickoff, Rodgers took advantage of a short field. He rushed in for a 4-yard touchdown to give Vanderbilt a 21-0 lead with 58 seconds to go before halftime.
Vanderbilt then overwhelmed the
Minutemen, scoring four touchdowns in a five-minute span in the third quarter.
Rodgers started the scoring flurry with a 14-yard touchdown to Chris Boyd. Less than 90 seconds later, Trey Wilson extended his own school record with his fourth career interception return for a touchdown. The 17-yard return was his second score of the year. Only Tennessee's Jackie Walker has returned more interceptions for touchdowns, scoring five from 1969-71.
Vanderbilt entered with a Southeastern Conference-low five turnovers but forced three against UMass.
Highly-touted freshman Brian Kimbrow showed off his electrifying speed on a 74-yard touchdown. He finished with 98 yards on seven carries but also fumbled.
Krause capped off the scoring by taking a short punt and sprinting 40 yards untouched to the end zone for a 49-0 lead with 1:05 left in the third quarter. The last Vanderbilt player to score on a punt return was Jimmy Williams, who had a 65-yard return against Northern Illinois on Sept. 11, 1999.
UMass snapped a streak of seven scoreless quarters when
A.J. Doyle threw a 10-yard strike to Deion Walker with 6:05 remaining.
Vanderbilt played undisciplined on its opening drive. The Commodores committed six penalties for 50 yards to stall a drive that ended with a pooch punt by Rodgers. Three offensive linemen drew flags, including a 15-yard penalty on center Joe Townsend for an illegal chop block. An illegal shift followed for a first-and-30 at Vanderbilt's own 38, leading to a timeout by coach James Franklin.
That didn't stop the mental errors. Five offensive linemen committed penalties and Vanderbilt tied a season-high with 11 penalties for 80 yards.
The biggest loss, however, came when Stacy went down hard after catching a screen pass and had to be helped off the field.
Krause's 28-yard punt return - then a season-high - set up the first score. Two plays later, Wesley Tate broke off for a 25-yard touchdown. Tate spun off a tackle and trotted inside the far pylon for a 7-0 lead with 5:34 left in the first quarter. He finished with a career-high 81 yards on 15 carries - all in the first half.
After gaining possession on a failed fourth-and-1 try by Vanderbilt, UMass also gambled. Instead of kicking a field goal,
Jordan Broadnax was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Vanderbilt 9-yard line. The Minuteman also failed to convert a fourth-and-4 on their next possession. The Commodores capitalized, marching 72 yards in eight plays. Kentera was left wide open and hauled in the short pass from Rodgers for his first career touchdown.