DEKALB, Ill. — Freshman quarterback AJ Swann threw four touchdown passes and Vanderbilt rallied to a 38-28 nonconference victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday.
Swann, making his third appearance and first career start, engineered a comeback from a two-touchdown deficit as the Commodores (3-1) scored 24 unanswered points in the second half. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards and the four scores.
Northern Illinois (1-2) suffered its second straight loss as starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi left the game in the second quarter with an unspecified injury.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the third quarter, Swann cut the margin to 28-21 with 6:44 left as he scrambled to find running back Ray Davis on fourth down for a 21-yard score.
Vanderbilt then forced a 28-28 deadlock with Swann’s 31-yard TD pass to Will Sheppard with 4:36 showing. Swann and Sheppard combined again on a 13-yard strike and a 35-28 lead with 1:11 left in the quarter. Kicker Joseph Bulovas made it 38-28 with his 35 yard field goal early in the fourth.
Sheppard closed with 10 receptions for 171 yards.
Vanderbilt improved to 5-0 all-time against Northern Illinois.
Huskies backup quarterback Ethan Hampton, who went 12 of 19 for 124 yards and two touchdowns, combined with wide receiver Tucker Cole on a 70-yard touchdown pass for a 28-14 lead in the third quarter but the Huskies were shut out the rest of the way.
Swann directed a 12-play, 80-yard opening drive, including a 3-yard TD strike to wide receiver Gavin Schoenwald. The Huskies forced a 7-7 tie nearly three minutes later with Lombardi’s 1-yard touchdown toss to Cole Tucker.
Vanderbilt made it 14-7 early in the second quarter on Davis’s 3-yard scoring run.
The Huskies stayed mostly on the ground on a drive to a 14-14 tie, rushing nine times. A surprise reverse deep in Commodore territory set up Hampton’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Kacper Rutkiewicz at the 5:32 mark.
Antario Brown burst through the line on 2nd-and-3 near midfield as a 51-yard touchdown sprint helped Northern Illinois to a 21-14 lead with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Commodores travel to No. 2 Alabama, the reigning SEC champions, in a conference opener on Saturday.