NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Oh baby, what an eventful last 24 hours it's been for Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
Vaughn rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown and Riley Neal threw for 189 yards and a touchdown and Vanderbilt defeated Northern Illinois 24-18.
Vaughn did all this after becoming a father of a baby boy around 7:00 Friday night.
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.
"I'm really proud of what I saw from Ke'Shawn Vaughn today," Mason said. "He was a little sore. He was a little banged up. He was a warrior. And I definitely appreciate his mentality. Last night his son Kelan was born at around 7:00, so that young man stayed at the hospital last night with his newborn son. He had a lot on his mind and I appreciate him for the warrior he is."
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.
Out of the shotgun, Neal took the snap and handed off to Vaughn, who pitched it back to Neal. He then sent a pass over two Northern Illinois defenders to Lipscomb on the right side, who ran into the end zone just inside the pylon.
"Riley put it on the money and it was just a race to the end zone," Lipscomb said. "It was a great call."
Lipscomb finished with seven catches for 94 yards and the touchdown.
"That's kind of how we scripted it depending on the coverage we thought would be there," Neal said. "With the look we got, that's what we anticipated it, so it worked out well."
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."
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 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."
When asked what he said to Vaughn following the birth of his son, Mason shared some big picture advice that stretched way beyond football.
"I told him last night, I said, 'When you have your child and you hold your child in your arms, you realize everything around you now is bigger than you. Your work becomes a little bigger. Your drive becomes a little bigger. Your purpose, everything that you do, matters,'" he said. "And he hugged me and I left him alone."
Northern Illinois: Hosts Ball State on Oct. 5.
Vanderbilt: Visits Mississippi on Oct. 5.
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