NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Visiting East Tennessee State scored 23 unanswered points and ruined the Vanderbilt head coaching debut of Clark Lea with a 23-3 win at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday.
The Commodores (0-1) took a 3-0 lead early but couldn’t dent the scoreboard after that. East Tennessee State had a 10-3 lead at the break before adding on 13 more points in the second half.
Vanderbilt, which has dropped 11 in a row, next travels to Colorado State (0-1) at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Lea’s team will hope to put together a stronger performance in that contest than what transpired at Vanderbilt Stadium on opening night. The Dores had 318 yards of total offense – just 82 on the ground – and were penalized eight times.
Defensively, the Dores surrendered 5.3 yards per play and registered only four tackles for loss.
Vandy had 11 offensive drives – six ended in punts, one ended with a turnover on downs, another with a field goal and three resulted in turnovers.
Vanderbilt opened the scoring with 4:15 left in the first quarter thanks to a Joseph Bulovas field goal from 53 yards out. That would be the only lead they enjoyed.
East Tennessee State retook the advantage midway through the second quarter. An 80-yard drive ended on the ninth play, a third-down pass from Tyler Riddell to Malik Murray from the 5 that gave the Buccaneers a 7-3 lead.
Tyler Keltner added to the East Tennessee State lead with a 41-yard field goal at the 2:24 mark making it 10-3.
That’s the way the score looked at the half. The Commodores mustered just 130 yards of offense, had five penalties and were 2 of 9 on third down.
Keltner booted a 25-yard field goal with 8:42 remaining in the third quarter upping the East Tennessee State lead to 13-3. That completed a 10-play drive that ate 6:18 off the clock and covered 68 yards.
The Buccaneers (1-0) would take that 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
East Tennessee State linebacker Stephen Scott ended all doubt by picking up a Ken Seals fumble and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown with 8:26 to play. That made it 20-3.
Vandy looked like it may finally punch one into the end zone late in the fourth, but Seals was picked off at the 1 yard line. Keltner added a 34-yard field goal moments later to provide the final margin.
Vanderbilt running back Re’Mahn Davis ran for 54 yards on 14 carries. Seals finished the night 20-for-34 for 195 yards.
• Bulovas’ 53-yard field goal was the first field goal make of more than 50 yards for the Commodores since Ryley Guay made a 53-yarder at Florida on Oct. 13, 2018.
• The 53-yard make by Bulovas is tied for the third-longest in Vanderbilt history. Steve Yenner and Hawkins Golden hold the program record at 55.
• Vanderbilt on Saturday officially kicked off its 131st season of football.
• The Commodores are now 1-1 all-time against East Tennessee State.
• Vandy is now 11-2 in its last 13 nonconference games against opponents from outside a Power 5 conference.
• Vandy is now 35-7 against current members of the Southern Conference.
• The Commodores are now 17-8 in their last 25 nonconference matchups.
• Vanderbilt now owns a 112-86-7 record against in-state opponents.
• Attendance was announced as 22,029.