Vandy narrowly escapes Big Blue in a thriller

Nashville native Ke’Shawn Vaughn dashes for a 78-yard Commodore touchdown from the line of scrimmage.

It’s 1:25 remaining in the game at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Big Blue of Tennessee State University (2-1) is at the Vanderbilt 15-yard line. It’s fourth down, four yards to go for a first down. The Tigers are about to complete a monumental upset versus their three-mile cross-city rival. All they have to do is get across that goal line. The Big Blue band is anxious, all but ready to play the fight song. TSU fans are on the edges of their seats. Demry Croft snaps the ball. The Vandy rush is bearing down hard on Croft, as he throws the ball incomplete. The Tigers give the ball up on downs. Vandy kneels and runs out the clock. Game over. Final score, 31-27, but barely.

Shurmur threw two interceptions early—as many as he’s had all year. Luckily for the Commodores, the Big Blue didn’t take off with the game, because they had their chances. TSU went into halftime with a 13-10 lead, behind the Croft and Harris duo.

Vanderbilt would respond in the second half. Shurmur hooked up with Lipscomb for a 38-yard touchdown strike. Illinois transfer, Ke’Shawn Vaughn skedaddled his way to a 78-yard touchdown run. This all happened within the first six minutes of the third quarter. With a 24-13 lead and the offense clicking, Vandy appeared to be headed to victory. Not so fast. Croft and company weren’t finished. The Tigers refused to go quietly. They charged back.

“Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a special back,” Mason said after the game. The redshirt junior, who played his high school ball at Pearl-Cohn, delivered the longest rush from scrimmage for a touchdown in six years for the black and gold. The Commodores had their share of offensive moments, but struggled to slow down the Tigers.

The OVC representative most definitely frightened the SEC’s Vanderbilt Commodores (3-2) on this day. It took a Kyle Shurmur three-touchdown performance to get past them—one, shortly after TSU took a 27-24 lead, behind a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive with about eight minutes left in the contest.

Shurmur, released a 68-yard bomb to Kalija Lipscomb for a TD in the waning minutes, which would result as the final score of the game. With that, TSU missed a golden opportunity at a defining upset. There were plenty of missed opportunities throughout. Nevertheless, the Big Blue held their heads high, knowing they left it all on the field. Vandy was just happy to get out of there with a win.

In the end, Shurmur threw for 297 yards. Vaughn had 146 yards on 17 carries. Lipscomb caught nine balls for 174 yards and two touchdowns for the black and gold.

Treon Harris, who was accustomed to facing the Commodores during his Florida days as quarterback, now at wideout, had a monster day, with eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers. Dajour Nesbeth had a big day on defense. He recorded 10 tackles and an interception, which he returned 65 yards. Croft ended his spectacular day, although a loss, with 269 yards passing, three touchdowns and 41 yards rushing.

Late in the first half, a very sad and unfortunate incident happened. Tigers linebacker Christion Abercrombie was given oxygen and taken off the field by stretcher, where he was moved to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s emergency room after collapsing with a head injury, that coach Rod Reed later confirmed required surgery.

It’s not exactly known how or when the Atlanta native was hurt before coming to the sideline. Abercrombie was the Tigers’ second-leading tackler. He had five tackles (three solo) before the injury.

Following the game, the teams united in prayer at midfield, as both coaches embraced.

“Football is what we do, not who we are,” said Mason. “At the end of the day, when serious injuries happen, football becomes secondary.”

Abercrombie was in critical condition and being observed as of Saturday night. As of now, Abercrombie is still currently being observed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and remains in critical condition. Please keep his family in your thoughts.

The Big Blue face off against another in-state rival this weekend, as they bus on down to Clarksville to battle conference foe Austin Peay.

Vandy goes to Georgia, where they will have their hands full against the number two team in the country, as they begin a stretch of seven straight in the SEC. Stay tuned!