– As time ticked off the clock in Vanderbilt's game against Tennessee State on Saturday, Commodores' quarterback Kyle Shurmur
had one goal: get the ball to wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb
"When push comes to shove, you've just got to make a play," Shurmur said. "I've got a lot of trust in Kalija."
That trust paid off in a key moment for Vanderbilt. With 6:20 to play, Lipscomb hauled in a long pass from Shurmur and scampered 68 yards to the end zone. When Lipscomb broke the plane in Vanderbilt's south end zone, his score lifted the Dores ahead, 31-27, with the go-ahead touchdown.
Vanderbilt's defense still had to step up in order to seal the win, which it did by stuffing Tennessee State on fourth down on its ensuing possession. But the Commodores escaped from Vanderbilt Stadium in large part because of Lipscomb, who continues to evolve into one of the most dangerous receivers in the SEC.
"I think Kyle's going to find Kalija, hopefully through he flow of the offense," Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason
said. "Obviously, Kalija can make plays. We continue to see a young man, who I said at the beginning of the season is one of the best receivers in this conference, he continues to go out and show why. He's a clutch player."
Lipscomb finished the night with a game-high 174 receiving yards on nine catches. The junior added a 38-yard touchdown catch to his fourth-quarter score for two total touchdowns against TSU, bringing his season total to six.
Lipscomb, a New Orleans native, notched the second 100-yard receiving game of his career. He has now hauled in at least nine catches in four consecutive games and leads Vanderbilt with 43 receptions for 480 yards. No other Commodore has caught more than 18 passes this season.
Though Lipscomb has played a key role for the Dores since arriving as a freshman in 2016, he said he now embodies a leader on Vanderbilt's offense.
"It's slowly become that," Lipscomb. "I recognize that in the locker room, on the field, during games, guys are depending on me to make plays… I just have to own that role and do my best to make those."
Vanderbilt will need a productive Lipscomb as it jumps back into SEC play. The Commodores venture for a matchup with a top-five ranked Georgia team next Saturday. Then, it's a home date with Florida on Oct. 13. Vanderbilt won on Saturday, but Lipscomb said he knows the Dores have to put a better product on the field to fully reach its SEC goals.
"We're not quite satisfied with this win," Lipscomb said. "We feel like we can play a lot better… I don't know if concerned
is the right word, but we're definitely ready to get back to work. Push forward, get better and play better next week."
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.