NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt plays its final home game of the season at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when it welcomes East Tennessee State for the first time in program history.
The Commodores (2-8) will recognize a large group of seniors prior to kickoff, many of whom have been a part of two bowl games and three straight wins over rival Tennessee. Vandy will also be looking to improve to 17-9 in nonconference games under head coach Derek Mason.
East Tennessee State (3-8) broke a six-game losing streak last time out with a 38-33 win over Mercer. Saturday’s game is the last of the season for the Buccaneers, led by head coach Randy Sanders, who compete within the Southern Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Here is more on how to tune in to Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to watch at Vanderbilt Stadium:
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Location: Vanderbilt Stadium
Television: SEC Network Alternate
Broadcast Crew: Dave LaMont (play-by-play), Ray Bentley (analyst), Taylor Davis (sideline)
Streaming: Available via the WatchESPN app
Radio: Vanderbilt radio network WLAC AM 1510 Nashville; SiriusXM 192, streaming channel 963
Weather: 57 degrees at kickoff, cloudy, 60 percent chance of rain
1. SENIOR SHOWOUT
Among the Commodores playing their final game at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday are running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb, tight end Jared Pinkney, quarterback Riley Neal, wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley, kicker Ryley Guay, offensive lineman Saige Young and linebacker Caleb Peart.
Vandy would like nothing more than to see that group make big contributions throughout the day Saturday. And for a team that has dropped three in a row, those contributions will be greatly needed in order for the Dores to get back in the win column.
2. CURING SECOND HALF WOES
Vanderbilt has been outscored 187-52 in the second half of 10 games this season. It has also been shut out in the last two quarters during each of the last five defeats.
It will be imperative for the Commodores to start the third quarter strong in order to maintain some momentum coming out of the locker room. East Tennessee State has been outscored 102-65 in the fourth quarter and overtime combined this season – a trend to watch Saturday.
3. BREAKING THE BUCS SECONDARY
East Tennessee State allows just 167.7 passing yards per game – that ranks ninth among all FCS teams. Only once this season (Sept. 14 against the Virginia Military Institute) have the Buccaneers surrendered more than 300 yards passing.
Vanderbilt has been held to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last three games and now ranks 116th in passing offense in the FBS. Neal is in line to make his second straight start after recovering from a concussion Nov. 2 at South Carolina and that could help the Commodores find some consistency through the air.
4. MAKE KE’ THE KEY
Vaughn has totaled 86 yards rushing in the last two games, well below his average – and standard. If there was an opportunity to get back on track, Saturday may be it.
The Buccaneers give up more than 200 yards rushing per contest and seven times this season have allowed at least 190 in a single game.
With one more rushing touchdown, Vaughn will finish his career ranked third in program history for rushing touchdowns. He also needs 83 rushing yards to finish fifth in career rushing yards at Vanderbilt.
5. MAKING THIRD DOWN COUNT
Vanderbilt has been faced with 136 third-down plays this season and has been able to gain a first down on only 38 of those plays. That’s a shade less than 28 percent.
The Commodores need to figure out a way to keep their offense on the field with sustained drives in order to wear down the ETSU defense while simultaneously giving their own defense a rest. If Vandy can do that there’s a good chance win No. 3 will be right around the corner.