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Vanderbilt ends 11-game losing streak with 24-21 win over Colorado State

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WE WON A GAME

NCAA Football: East Tennessee State at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt’s Saturday night started much like the previous one. The Colorado State Rams took the opening kickoff and needed just five plays to go 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead. Vanderbilt then went three and out on its first possession, and Colorado State again moved the ball rapidly.

But the Rams would miss a field goal attempt that would have made the score 10-0 in their favor, and that was the hidden story of the early part of Saturday’s game. While Colorado State was dominating the early part of the game, the Rams could build just a 14-0 lead. Colorado State ran 32 plays for 245 yards on its first five drives, but three of those possessions ended with no points, with a pair of missed field goals and a punt at the Vanderbilt 40.

My good friend Poseur from And the Valley Shook has a saying he calls Poseur’s Law, which posits that if one team has an advantage in the run of play, but fails to convert that advantage into points, the advantage dissipates. That seems to be what happened here. With Colorado State sporting a 14-0 lead that probably should have been more like 24-0 late in the first half, Vanderbilt suddenly found life. And Colorado State started making really dumb, awful mistakes. Shortly before halftime, the Rams committed a really stupid unnecessary roughness penalty on Cam Johnson, giving Vanderbilt a 1st and 10 at the Colorado State 20, which Ken Seals promptly cashed in with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Pierce to make the score 14-7 with 47 seconds to go before halftime.

And suddenly, the momentum had shifted. Early in the second half, Jaylen Mahoney — who had a rough night against ETSU — got Vanderbilt’s first takeaway of the season with a diving interception, giving the Commodores the ball at their own 47 to start a drive. And then Chris Pierce did this on 3rd and 5:

And two plays later, Seals found Cam Johnson for the game-tying touchdown. And after another Colorado State punt, Vanderbilt took the lead at 21-14 by going 75 yards in 9 plays.

That score held until 3:07 remained in the game, when Colorado State’s Todd Centeio found Trey McBride on 4th and goal to tie the game at 21.

And then, Vanderbilt got a little help. A pass interference penalty on the first play of the ensuing drive gave the Commodores a first down at the 40, and then, two plays later, Ken Seals ran it out to the 50 and a clear targeting penalty got the ball into the edge of Joseph Bulovas’ field goal range. A few runs by Re’Mahn Davis and Rocko Griffin gave Bulovas a clear shot from the middle of the field, 37 yards out, and Bulovas snuck it inside the left upright to give Vanderbilt a 24-21 lead with 19 second left in the game.

That turned out to be the game-winner. Colorado State tried to run a lateral on the final play of the game, but ended up throwing an illegal forward pass. Vanderbilt improves to 1-1 on the season and has its first road win since 2018.