It wasn’t easy, but the Vanderbilt Commodores managed to get off to their best start in the Derek Mason era.
Despite a home field filled with Wildcat fans and a rushing offense that failed to carve any space for All-SEC tailback Ralph Webb, the ‘Dores managed to topple No. 18 Kansas State and move to 3-0 for the first time in six years.
Kyle Shurmur wasn’t as efficient as he had been in blowouts over Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M, but he still managed to be Vandy’s best weapon against the program’s toughest opponent of 2017. The junior completed 14 of his 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown in a massive win over a ranked non-conference opponent.
Vanderbilt took an early lead in a first half that featured as many punts (10) as first downs. The Commodores took their second drive of the game 84 yards in a methodical drive that kept the WIldcats on their toes in a bullying push downfield. Shurmur found C.J. Duncan cutting across the line of scrimmage to cap off the drive with a two-yard touchdown drive that gave the ‘Dores a 7-0 lead.
Kansas State responded with Jesse Ertz’s legs, covering 75 yards on eight plays and finding the end zone when the dual-threat quarterback walked a fourth-and-1 carry into the end zone from 15 yards out.
And then, the punts came. Shurmur appeared to bobble a mistimed scramble into the waiting arms of a K-State defender for the rare fumble-six, but an officials review overturned the Wildcat touchdown and allowed the ‘Dores to punt the ball away to an equally confounded KSU defense. The two teams rolled to the locker room at the half content to regroup after a low-scoring stalemate in Music City.
The two teams stayed knotted at 7-7 as the hour grew late, despite their best efforts. The Wildcats pushed a 42-yard field goal wide right to keep the ‘Dores from falling behind. One LaDarius Wiley interception later
the ‘Dores plowed into the red zone, only to have Ralph Webb work his way into an uncharacteristic fumble that erased Vandy’s scoring opportunity.
But Derek Mason’s defense wasn’t about to let that happen. Ryan White struck back with a clutch interception that effectively gave the Commodores a do-over, and one 32-yard strike to Trent Sherfield set up first-and-goal from the KSU 1-yard-line. Two busted runs led to an important third-and-goal, and Shurmur effectively said ‘F*** it, I’ll do it myself.”
That gave Vandy a 14-7 lead with 8:23 to play, but Bill Snyder’s team wasn’t willing to go away into that solemn good night. The defense forced a three-and-out, but Kansas State wasn’t done fighting.
The Wildcats drove into VU territory with fewer than four minutes to play, but the bend-don’t-break Commodore defense came up bigger than ever. Kansas State had 2nd-and-6 from the Vandy 17, but would be shut out of the home team end zone as a crowd filled with purple left the stadium unhappy.