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 of the season to Power Five teams, two of which came against Top Five ranked opponents No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU.
"(I'm) just very happy for our football team to get this win," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. "We'll come back tomorrow and fix what needs to be fixed, but I told those guys, 'Go enjoy it.'"
After winning their season opening game, Northern Illinois (1-3) has dropped three straight, all against Power Five Teams.
"Obviously it was a tough game," Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock said. "I thought our players responded and came out in the second half and fought and scratched to put us in the game. We spotted them 14 points on things that were easily avoidable, simple plays that we have to execute."
Vanderbilt's Keyon Brooks and Vaughn scored rushing touchdowns by on their first two 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 played 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 off of a flea-flicker.
"Riley put it on the money and it was just a race to the end zone," Lipscomb said. "It was a great call."
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 during his time at Ball State.
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.
"Yeah, it was definitely sweet," Brinkman said. "Coaches on the sideline were saying if we score we're going for two. We practiced that play all week and we knew we were going to execute and Ross (Brinkman) threw a great ball."
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 Ke'Shawn 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.
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 Huskies converted four of 13 third down opportunities in the game.
"Our defense showed improvement," Mason said. "We let the lid off a little bit late in that ballgame and that happens."
Northern Illinois: Hosts Ball State on Oct. 5.
Vanderbilt: Visits Mississippi on Oct. 5.
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