Vanderbilt rallies to beat Tennessee State 35-17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt went to its running game to make an impressive comeback against Tennessee State.
After falling behind by three points late in the first half, the Commodores rattled off three unanswered touchdowns en route to a 35-17 win over Tennessee State on Saturday.
''The biggest thing was being ahead of the chains, being good on first and second downs so you don't have to be in those bad situations,'' Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur said. ''So if like we're in third and short it's so much better than third-and-8 or third-and-9.''
Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb rushed for 125 yards and Khari Blasingame ran for 100 and three touchdowns.
''It felt good just to be out there making plays,'' Blasingame said. ''Those offensive linemen, they really did a good job moving people. Those holes were huge. You could have put a truck through those things.''
Shurmur completed 15 of 23 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown, giving Vanderbilt (4-4) its fifth homecoming win in the past six years. Vanderbilt fell behind 17-14 late in the first half before the rattling off three straight touchdowns.
Ronald Butler completed 19 of 30 passes for 285 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for Tennessee State (5-2) in the second all-time meeting between the Nashville schools that are only three miles apart.
Patrick Smith caught seven passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers, ranked 25th in the FCS polls.
Butler got Tennessee State off to a great start by throwing two touchdown passes to Smith on the Tigers' first two possessions, including a 93-yarder on the game's opening possession. But Tennessee State was unable to make it stand as it gave up 350 rushing yards to the Commodores.
''I thought defensively we struggled in the first half,'' Commodores coach Derek Mason said. ''It was a rough start, but offensively, I thought they came on and did a really good job of answering back.''
Vanderbilt took its first lead at 21-17 with 1:46 left in the half after Darrius Sims had a 33-yard run to the 3 and Blasingame punched it in to cap a five-play, 78-yard drive.
Ralph Webb's 49-yard run up the middle to the Tigers 24 got Vanderbilt off to a good start on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.
Blasingame's third touchdown, this one from 4 yards, increased the Commodores' lead to 28-17 with 12:54 left in the third quarter.
The Commodores' Ryan White forced a fumble and Dare Odeyingbo recovered at the Vandy 30 early in the fourth quarter and Trent Sherfield's 14-yard run capped the scoring for Vanderbilt with 6:08 left.
''Their personnel out-bigged us; they play big boy football,'' Tigers coach Rod Reed said. ''They brought three tight ends in at times and were able to run the power and lean on us a bit. (Vanderbilt) did what we thought they would do, we just missed some tackles.''
The Tigers fell to 0-3 against FBS opponents.
Tennessee State: The Tigers got off to a good start, leading for much of the first half, but the Commodores wore down Tennessee State with its running game. Tennessee State was able to move the ball with 410 yards of total offense but they gave up 501.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores enjoyed their best running game of the season, rushing for 358 yards as Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame both broke the 100-yard mark. The Commodores won their second straight game to reach the .500 mark.
Tennessee State: The Tigers visit Murray State next Saturday.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores have a bye next week before visiting Auburn on Nov. 5.