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Vanderbilt builds big lead, hangs on for 42-31 win

Well... that was really something.

Elon v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Through two games in the 2022 season, the Vanderbilt offense appears to be night and day different from the 2021 edition. Last season, the Commodores never scored more than 30 points in a game; this season, they’ve already topped that mark both times they’ve taken the field.

The offense had a quick three and out to open the game; but, after an erroneous punt by Elon, the Commodores struck quickly for their first touchdown of the game, with Mike Wright punching it in from five yards out after a 34-yard run by Ray Davis. Vanderbilt’s next drive looked to be going nowhere, but, after an Elon defender jumped offsides, Mike Wright found Jayden McGowan for a 75-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0.

And, after that, Vanderbilt put together a real drive capped by a six-yard touchdown pass from Wright to Will Sheppard to extend the lead. Elon cut it to 21-7 on its very next offensive play — somehow, De’Rickey Wright wound up covering a wide receiver and got beat deep for a 75-yard touchdown pass — and, after the offense bogged down for much of the second quarter, Wright ran a textbook two-minute drill and tossed another touchdown to Sheppard, giving Vanderbilt a 28-10 lead going into the break.

The offense picked up right where it left off in the third frame, with Wright knifing through the Elon defense for a 44-yard touchdown run to a cap a five-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half.

And then... the offense suddenly stopped. After the Wright touchdown, Vanderbilt went three and out on its next three drives — and Elon got back into the game with the help of some circus catches, two of them on a nine-play, 83-yard drive immediately following, and another for a 23-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter to pull within 35-24. But then, a big turnover swung the momentum back in Vanderbilt’s direction: Elon’s Jackson Parham caught a third-down pass and appeared to have a first down, but Michael Owusu knocked the ball loose, Elijah McAllister recovered, and the Commodores took advantage by going 57 yards in four plays to extend their lead to 42-24 (helped along by a couple of Elon personal foul penalties for hits on Mike Wright.)

Granted, we still had to have some heartburn after Elon scored another touchdown and then recovered an onside kick, but Vanderbilt ended the threat by stuffing the Phoenix on 4th and 1 with 3:19 left. Elon did get the ball down inside the one-yard line on an ensuing drive but got stuffed with under a minute left, and Vanderbilt ran out the clock to hang on to a 42-31 win.

Vanderbilt finished the night with 424 yards of total offense, 329 of those coming from Mike Wright running and throwing the ball. The Commodores are now 2-0 and will host Wake Forest next Saturday.