For a brief time, it looked like nothing had been fixed. Hawaii came out of the locker room in Saturday night’s season opener and needed just eight plays and 2:42 of game time to take a 7-0 lead. Vanderbilt’s first two drives resulted in a punt and a promising drive ending on an incomplete fourth-down pass.
Vanderbilt finally got the equalizer late in the first quarter when Rocko Griffin broke a big run to set up a one-yard Mike Wright touchdown pass to a hilariously uncovered Will Sheppard.
And then, on Hawaii’s first play of the ensuing drive, Anfernee Orji made it 14-7 on a scoop and score.
Hawaii would cut Vanderbilt’s margin to 14-10 on its next drive with a 40-yard field goal on a drive helped by a pretty awful roughing the passer call on Orji; the Commodores would answer with a nine-play drive capped by a one-yard Wright touchdown run to make it 21-10. Vanderbilt would have a chance to open the score up even more going into halftime, but another failed fourth-down conversion kept the score at 21-10.
And then the floodgates opened in the third quarter. Ray Davis took the first play of the second half 39 yards, Hawaii would add on a 15-yard personal foul, and Rocko Griffin punched it in two plays later. Vanderbilt would run 17 offensive plays in the third quarter and score 35 points, including another defensive touchdown on a scoop and score by C.J. Taylor, turning a close-ish game at halftime into a complete laugher. It was 56-10 at the end of the third quarter, and true freshman A.J. Swann would take over in the fourth quarter as Clark Lea called off the dogs.
“Clark Lea called off the dogs” is certainly a long way from anything that happened in 2021, when Vanderbilt won two games, both on last-minute field goals. Syracuse transfer Cooper Lutz tacked on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the final score 63-10 in the Commodores’ favor. Vanderbilt finished the night with 604 yards of total offense, 407 of them on the ground — 163 from the legs of Mike Wright on 13 carries. Wright ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more on 13-of-21 passing for 140 yards. Vanderbilt will have a good chance to get to 2-0 when Elon comes to Nashville next Saturday.