Vanderbilt seniors go out with a bang in 38-0 win over ETSU

The Commodores dominated the Buccaneers to end their home campaign with a victory.

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Vanderbilt seniors go out with a bang in 38-0 win over ETSU

Jared Pinkney caught two touchdowns on Senior Day as Vanderbilt downed ETSU 38-0.

Jared Pinkney caught two touchdowns on Senior Day as Vanderbilt downed ETSU 38-0.

Hunter Long

Jared Pinkney caught two touchdowns on Senior Day as Vanderbilt downed ETSU 38-0.

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Jared Pinkney caught two touchdowns on Senior Day as Vanderbilt downed ETSU 38-0.

Luke Mukundan, Staff Writer

All offseason, Vanderbilt fans heard about the team’s “Big Three.” Well, it took a while, but on Senior Day, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney helped propel the Commodores to a 38-0 victory over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. In what basically equated to a warm up game for the game against Tennessee next week, Vanderbilt dominated its FCS opponent.

“It’s been a time of peaks and valleys for this group, but this group has always responded the right way,” head coach Derek Mason said of his team and their performance on Senior Day.

Vanderbilt’s resurgent offense was led by its trio of senior stars. Vaughn rushed for 139 yards on the day, highlighted by a 75-yard breakaway touchdown to open the second half. Lipscomb added 75 receiving yards, including an acrobatic 43-yard catch midway through the third quarter. Finally, Pinkney, who has seen his numbers take a major dip this year, had his best game of the season. He finished with 76 receiving yards and two touchdowns, his first two of the season. The defense held its own as well, pitching a shutout and allowing just 105 total yards of offense.

In what would be the final game for a highly successful Vanderbilt senior class, only a select few of the Vanderbilt faithful turned out. A combination of cold weather and most students returning home for Thanksgiving Break resulted in a crowd well under the announced attendance of 19,683 fans.

After receiving the opening kickoff, East Tennessee State began the game with a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Anthony Spagnoletti, bringing them close to midfield. However, the offense quickly stalled out and Vanderbilt forced the Buccaneers to punt after a four-play drive. 

Following a 17-yard punt return by Justice Shelton-Mosley to set up the Commodores with great field position, Vaughn began the drive with an eight-yard run. Later in the drive, Kalija Lipscomb made a first-down snag, after which Vaughn bounced it outside and gained 11 yards before being pushed out of bounds. This set up a Riley Neal pass to Jared Pinkney, who broke multiple tackles down the right sideline and scored a 31-yard touchdown, his first of the year. After Riley Guay’s extra point, Vanderbilt had a 7-0 lead over the Buccaneers, thanks to the contributions of its “Big Three”. 

After getting the ball back, ETSU got another first down to start off the drive following a 12-yard run by running back Jacob Saylors. Following a run by the fullback, ETSU was set up with a short third down, which they then converted. Faced with another third down at the beginning of the second quarter, ETSU dialed up a passing play and got a big gain, once again converting for a first first down. ETSU then made it to the 12 yard line before running out of steam, having to settle for a field goal attempt. Defensive tackle Cameron Tidd stuck out his hand and blocked the kick, though, allowing Vanderbilt to maintain its seven point lead intact.

Pinkney caught another ball on the ensuing drive, his second catch of the day after going three weeks without any. Neal then scrambled on the next play with a wide open field in front of him, gaining 27 yards. Following a couple unsuccessful plays, Vaughn caught a pass on a screen and made some nice moves in the open field, but was two yards short of the first down. Mason elected to go for it on fourth down, and Neal found Pinkney in the flat and the tight end ran down the sideline to gain 22 yards and set up Vanderbilt in the red zone. Vaughn followed that with a 12-yard run and a short rush up the middle to punch it in to give Vandy the 14-0 lead.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Vaughn showed why he’s been one of the most explosive players in college football during his time at Vanderbilt. He took a handoff to the left and then accelerated past the ETSU defense to go 75 yards for a touchdown, his longest run of the year.

“When we come out of halftime, we haven’t done much this year in the second half,” Mason said. “That’s what we needed, the opportunity to get the ball first and put some points on the board, and to see [Vaughn] touch it and go 75, that’s exactly what you want to see.”

After getting the ball back, Vaughn had a short gain before bouncing it out on his second run to get a first down. That rush put him at 130 rushing yards for the day and over 1000 yards on the season, marking the fifth consecutive season that Vanderbilt has had a 1,000 yard rusher. Later on, Neal connected with Lipscomb for 12 yards before finding Pinkney for big gain to get another first down. However, Vandy’s offense would stall at that point, as the Commodores settled for a 40 yard field goal from Riley Guay to extend its lead to 24 points.

Just minutes later, Jared Pinkney caught a seven-yard pass for his second touchdown of the day, putting Vanderbilt up 31-0 after the extra point. 

Once Vanderbilt got the ball back with 7:16 remaining in the game, Derek Mason took out his remaining starters and allowed the reserves to get some playing time. The Commodores weren’t done scoring though, as redshirt freshman running back Mitchell Pryor scored his first career touchdown to extend the lead to 38-0, where it would remain.

Before the game, Vanderbilt honored the life of Turner Cockrell, a former tight end on the team who passed away nearly a year ago. Cockrell would have been a Senior honored on the field with his teammates on Senior Day.

“They’ve always found an opportunity to stand up. We miss Turner,” Mason said. “Turner was a part of this group. We miss Turner, but I think these guys are close and they’ll always remember their time here at Vanderbilt University.”

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