Huskies Up Next

Commodores look for first win against Northern Illinois on Saturday

Vanderbilt Commodores (0-3)
Northern Illinois Huskies (1-2)
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Sept. 28, 2019 • 11 a.m. CT
Vanderbilt Stadium • Nashville, Tenn. • 40,350

SEC Network
Dave Neal (play-by-play), D.J. Shockley (analyst), Dawn Davenport (sideline reporter)

WLAC 1510 AM / WNRQ FM 98.3
Joe Fisher (play-by-play), Norman Jordan (analyst), Mitch Light (sideline)

• Vanderbilt remains on campus this Saturday searching for its first victory of the season. The Commodores will face their second nonconference opponent of the season in Northern Illinois from the Mid-American Conference. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Vanderbilt Stadium.

• Vanderbilt has faced arguably the nation’s most difficult early-season schedule. The Commodores are the only team in the nation to have faced two top-5 opponents in No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU. Vanderbilt is also one of five FBS teams that have opened with three Power 5 opponents in Georgia, Purdue and LSU.

• Vanderbilt’s 38 points against LSU is its highest scoring output ever against a opponent ranked among the nation’s top 5.

• Vanderbilt produced two defensive scores against LSU for the first time since the 2011 season opener when cornerback Trey Wilson returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Elon. The defensive touchdowns against  LSU came on a fumble recovery in the Tiger end zone by Elijah McAlister (R-Fr., OLB) and a 47-yard interception return by Randall Haynie (R-So., CB)

• Vanderbilt defensive line coach Jovan Haye will be honored as the Commodores’ 2019 SEC Football Legend during SEC Championship Weekend activities Dec. 6-7 in Atlanta. Haye was an All-SEC defensive end during his Vanderbilt playing career from 2002-04. Haye became a sixth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and spent six years in the league, playing for Carolina, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Detroit.

• An 82-hour fundraiser for Turner’s Heroes that started at kickoff of the LSU game reached its initial goal of $50,000 early in the contest. The non-profit was founded this summer by Vanderbilt senior tight end Cody Markel to honor the legacy of former teammate and classmate Turner Cockrell. The money will fund a discovery grant focused on innovative pediatric cancer research in honor of Cockrell, who passed away Nov. 29, 2018, after a lengthy battle with melanoma. The fundraiser, which ends late Sept. 24, raised more than $70,000. Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason and his wife, LeighAnne, committed $25,000 to the effort. For more information, visit

• Three Vanderbilt student-athletes hail from Illinois: senior PK Ryley Guay (Napierville/Benet Academy), sophomore safety Camden Coleman (Champaign/University Laboratory) and sophomore DL Tolu Thomas-Ailara (Chicago Heights/Marian Catholic). Guay is in his second year at the Commodores’ placekicker and is 4-of-4 this year on field goals, including three conversions beyond 40 yards. Coleman, a prep track and basketball player, played his first snaps of organized football last Saturday as a special teams contributor against LSU.

• Vanderbilt’s defense, especially its secondary, has faced a different task in the first three weeks. The unit has opposed three veteran signal callers in multi-year starters Jake Fromm (Georgia), Elijah Sindelar (Purdue) and Joe Burrow (LSU). Both Fromm and Burrow are leaders of undefeated, top-5 teams and rank among the top early candidates for Heisman Trophy consideration. Sindelar, who missed Purdue’s most recent game, ranks among Big Ten leaders in various passing categories.

• Seven student-athletes have earned their first collegiate starts this year: Dan Dawkins (R-Fr., OG), Kenny Hebert (R-Jr., OLB), Dashaun Jerkins (R-Fr., safety), Grant Miller (R-So., C), Harrison Smith (R-Fr., punter), Tyler Steen (R-Fr., OT) and Jonathan Stewart (R-So., OT). Three others were first-time starters in a Vanderbilt uniform: Riley Neal (Gr., QB), Cam Watkins (Gr., CB) and DC Williams, (Jr., CB).

• Sixteen players have logged their first action as Commodores against Georgia, Purdue and LSU: Neal, Watkins, Williams, Ben Bresnahan (R-Fr., TE), Keyon Brooks (Fr., RB), Camden Coleman (R-Fr., S), Daevion Davis (Fr., DT), Tre Douglas (R-Fr., CB), Rowan Godwin (Gr., OL), Brandon Maddox (Jr., DT), Jaylen Mahoney (Fr., CB), Salua Masina (R-Fr., LB), Elijah McAlister (R-Fr., OLB), Scott Meyer (Gr., LS), Mitchell Pryor (So., RB), Leshawn Paulino-Bell (R-So., OLB) and Justice Shelton-Mosley (Gr., WR/PR).

• Gerry Gdowski moved into the offensive coordinator role for the Commodores this season. Gdowski is the longest-tenured Vanderbilt assistant, having been on campus since Derek Mason’s first year in 2014. For the last three years, Gdowski served as quarterbacks coach, helping mold three-year starter and current Kansas City QB Kyle Shurmur into the Commodores’ all-time leading passer.

• Four coaches are new to Derek Mason’s staff this season: Devin “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, Jovan Haye, Tim Horton and Matt Weikert. Fitzsimmons serves as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Haye, a former Commodore All-SEC defensive end, enters his first year as defensive line coach. Horton comes to the staff as running backs coach after extremely successful SEC tenures. Weikert serves as outside linebackers coach, coming from an 12-year tenure at Air Force.