NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ke’Shawn Vaughn had another big day at Vanderbilt Stadium, but a pair of costly Vanderbilt turnovers in the second half thwarted the Commodores’ comeback attempt Saturday.
Visiting UNLV outscored Vandy 34-3 after falling behind 7-0 to win 34-10. The Rebels (2-4) scored 10 points off Vanderbilt miscues to put the game away late.
Vaughn, meanwhile, rushed for 140 yards in 15 carries (9.3 yards/rush) and also caught a 53-yard pass. Those numbers weren’t enough to carry the Commodores.
Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC) returns to action at 3 p.m. next Saturday when it hosts Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC).
“I gotta give credit to (Vaughn). I thought he played one heckuva ballgame,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said. “I wish he would have been healthier and more accessible because I would have given him the ball as many times as I could. I thought he played hard, I thought he played well.”
The Commodores began the fourth quarter down 27-10 after Daniel Gutierrez made a 29-yard field goal on the period’s first play. Vandy got a big return on the ensuing kickoff and a penalty moved the ball to the UNLV 43.
But the momentum was short-lived. Quarterback Riley Neal was sacked on a third-down play and fumbled – Nate Neal picked it up for the Rebels and took it back to the Commodores’ 40.
Six plays later, Chad Magyar ran in a 14-yard touchdown putting the Rebels ahead by 24 with 10:44 to play.
Vandy couldn’t find a comeback left in the tank.
“Miscues and opportunities lost continue to plague us. It’s not coach speak, it’s just what it is right now,” Mason said. “We have to play better collectively in order for us to have chances at success. Too many missed opportunities in drives for us to be good on offense, defense and we were again OK on special teams.”
The first 30 minutes didn’t go very well for the home team either.
After Vandy’s opening drive went 76 yards in a little less than three minutes, Vaughn scored on the eighth play with a 4-yard touchdown run making it 7-0.
The Rebels outscored Vanderbilt 24-3 the rest of the way.
Charles Williams scored on a 5-yard run, Gutierrez made a 44-yard field goal, Randal Grimes caught a 63 touchdown pass and tight end Noah Bean hauled in a 5-yard throw, respectively. Vandy kicker Ryley Guay made a 48-yard field goal in between all that leaving the Doors down 24-10 at the break.
Vanderbilt allowed 249 yards on defense and UNLV gained 7.5 yards per play in the first half while converting five of their six third-down opportunities.
Offensively, the Commodores were 1-for-8 on third down. Vaughn averaged 8.4 yards per carry in the first two quarters.
“I thought we played as good in the secondary as we had in a long time (Saturday), so that was fantastic,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “They challenged us and in the past we’ve kind of given up big chunks. We didn’t do that (Saturday) and actually created some turnovers.”
After 13 minutes of scoreless ball in the third quarter, Vanderbilt was putting together a solid drive into UNLV territory. But Neal was picked off by UNLV’s Javin White and the senior linebacker took it all the way down to the Vanderbilt 11.
The Rebels ran the clock down and took their 14-point lead into the final quarter. It never got any closer than that.
“Just execution for most of the game where all 11 guys got to be clicking for something great to happen, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” Vanderbilt senior wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley said. “Some things that are really fixable – which is great. Looking forward to fixing that and getting ready for Mizzou next week.”
• Vaughn is now 10th in Vanderbilt history with 1,851 Career rushing yards. Rodney Williams is ninth with 2,021.
• Vaughn also moved into fifth on Vandy’s all-time list for rushing touchdowns in a Vanderbilt career with 17. Cassen Jackson-Garrison is fourth with 18.
• Saturday’s game marked the eighth time Vaughn has rushed for 100 yards for the Commodores. That’s tied for the most in Vandy history with Frank Mordica.
• Vanderbilt sophomore linebacker Dimitri Moore set a career high Saturday with 12 tackles.
• Neal’s third-quarter interception was the Commodores’ first turnover since the 5:40 mark of the third quarter against LSU on Sept. 21, a span of 154:48 minutes of game action between turnovers.
• Vanderbilt fell to 3-4 all-time against programs from the Mountain West Conference.
• Members of Vanderbilt’s 1969 football team attended Saturday’s game.
• Attendance on Saturday was announced as 20,048.