The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt thrashes Alabama A&M 47-13, improves to 2-0

The Commodores are now 2-0 on the season after their dominant win Saturday night.
Anseley Philippe
Vanderbilt blocked two punts on Sept. 2, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Anseley Philippe)

The Vanderbilt Commodores captured their second victory of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 47-13 at home. The Commodores have now begun consecutive seasons 2-0 for the first time since 2018. After failing to score a touchdown for the first 22 minutes of the game, Vanderbilt took control in the second half and outscored Alabama A&M 35 to 7. 

Vanderbilt won the coin toss and deferred the first possession to Alabama A&M. The Bulldogs battled for every yard in a nine-minute first possession, converting on their first five third-down attempts behind shifty quarterback Xavier Langford. A clearly hobbled De’Rickey Wright was able to break up a pass on third-and-goal, but left the game shortly thereafter with an apparent lower body injury. The Bulldogs seized the first lead of the game with a 21-yard field goal from Victor Barbosa. 

Jayden McGowan reignited the home crowd, returning a short kick to the 50-yard line. On third-and-9, Vanderbilt QB AJ Swann showed some shiftiness of his own with an uncharacteristic 25-yard scramble for the first down. However, the Vanderbilt offense proved equally impotent from scoring range, and the Commodores were forced to settle for a field goal. 

After forcing an Alabama A&M three and out, Bryan Longwell blocked the Bulldogs’ punt through the back of the endzone for a safety. The play represented Vanderbilt’s first of two blocked punts on the night, and just the first safety for the team since 2020. The Commodores were unable to build off the momentum and punted after going three and out. 

After forcing the Bulldogs to another three and out, Will Sheppard returned the next punt 40 yards to bring the Commodores back into Bulldog territory. Chase Gillespie and London Humphreys picked up decisive first downs to set up Sheppard for a red zone touchdown, giving Vanderbilt a 12-3 lead. 

The Bulldogs and Commodores traded interceptions on their next possessions. Nate Clifton’s third down interception set Vanderbilt up with a golden opportunity in the Bulldogs’ redzone. Vanderbilt was unable to capitalize after Swann gave up an interception on a touchdown attempt to Gamarion Carter. 

To start the second half, the Commodores were much more effective at getting the ball into the hands of their best playmakers. McGowan had a few big catches and a nice run on the Commodores’ first possession of the half, and Sheppard finished the drive with his second receiving touchdown of the game, giving Vanderbilt a 19-3 lead. 

Just when it appeared that Vanderbilt might pull away, the Bulldogs responded with a two-play scoring drive. Vanderbilt’s secondary fell asleep and allowed a 62-yard touchdown bomb from Langford to Terrell Gardner. 

Vanderbilt managed to keep the offense rolling at a much more consistent pace to close out the game. Swann looked comfortable in the pocket and showed sharper improvisation skills under pressure. Sedrick Alexander plowed through a handful of Bulldog defenders to pick up his first and second collegiate touchdowns on consecutive possessions.

With a 40-10 lead and eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Swann was replaced by senior quarterback Ken Seals. Seals stepped in seamlessly, leading the Commodores down the field and throwing his first touchdown pass of the season. 

Alabama A&M responded with a field goal with 2:32 left to make the final score 47 to 13. Vanderbilt backup quarterbacks Walt Taylor and Drew Dickey both appeared on Vanderbilt’s final drive.

Vanderbilt will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. CDT against Wake Forest. Vanderbilt last faced off against Wake Forest in Week 3 of 2022, with the Demon Decons winning that matchup 45-25.

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About the Contributors
Brandon Karp
Brandon Karp, Senior Staff Writer
Brandon Karp ('25) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is studying human and organizational development and political science in Peabody College. You can reach him at [email protected].
Anseley Philippe
Anseley Philippe, Staff Writer and Photographer
Anseley Philippe ('25) is a potential biomedical engineering and Spanish double-major who aspires to be an immunologist. Outside of The Hustler, he can be found queuing up at 2301, wandering around campus during his evening promenades or trying to keep up with his Spanish. He can be reached at [email protected].
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