NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ke’Shawn Vaughn rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown, Riley Neal threw for 189 yards and a touchdown and Vanderbilt defeated Northern Illinois 24-18.
The victory was the first of the season for the Commodores (1-3), who dropped their first three games to Power Five teams, two of which came against Top Five ranked opponents No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU.
After winning their season-opening game, Northern Illinois (1-3) has dropped three straight, all against Power Five teams.
Vanderbilt’s Keyon Brooks and Vaughn scored rushing touchdowns on the first two Vanderbilt drives of the game.
On Vanderbilt’s opening drive, Brooks broke loose for a 61-yard touchdown run, the freshman’s first of the season. He had only one more carry of the game. Entering Saturday, Brooks had just eight carries for a total of seven yards in two games this season.
The Huskies pulled to within four in the third quarter after posting points on their first two drives of the second half. John Richardson kicked a 39-yard field goal to get Northern Illinois on the scoreboard, and then Mitchell Brinkman had a 38-yard touchdown reception. But Vanderbilt answered right back 1:49 later when Neal found Kalija Lipscomb with a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Vanderbilt improved its record to 8-2 against Mid-American Conference opponents, including 4-0 against Northern Illinois.
Neal is a graduate transfer from Ball State. His Cardinals teams never defeated MAC foe Northern Illinois.
Early in the fourth, the Huskies cut the deficit to six following a one-yard touchdown run by Marcus Jones and a two-point conversion reception by Brinkman, but the Commodore defense denied the Huskies on their final drive, and the Vanderbilt offense was able to run out the remaining three minutes to seal the victory.
Northern Illinois: After not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 17-straight games, the Huskies allowed an opponent to eclipse the century mark for the second consecutive game. Vanderbilt’s Vaughn rushed for 138 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. In Northern Illinois last game Sept. 14, Nebraska’s Dedrick Mills ran for 116 yards on 11 carries.
Vanderbilt: In their three losses to open the season, the Commodores allowed an average of 46 points to Georgia, Purdue and LSU. After not allowing any points in the first half, Northern Illinois recorded a field goal and a touchdown on their first two possessions of the second half. The Commodores allowed the Huskies to convert just four of 13 third-down opportunities in the game.
Northern Illinois: Hosts Ball State on Oct. 5.
Vanderbilt: Visits Mississippi on Oct. 5.