Vanderbilt football snaps 26-game SEC losing streak with win over Kentucky

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Vanderbilt football had lost 26 consecutive SEC games before Saturday, with the streak stretching over three years. But at Kroger Field, with the Commodores' backs against the wall, quarterback Mike Wright made a play when he needed to, finding top receiver Will Sheppard in the end zone with 32 seconds left after Quincy Skinner hauled in a 40-yard pass on fourth-and-11 to keep the drive alive.

Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5 SEC) beat No. 24 Kentucky (6-4, 3-4), 24-21 to end three years of conference misery.

Joe Bulovas kicked a 26-yard field goal to give Vanderbilt the lead with 5:22 left, but on Kentucky's first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, running back Chris Rodriguez ran for a 72-yard touchdown. But the extra time on the clock gave the Commodores enough time for the game-winning drive.

CJ Taylor grabbed an interception on the final play to end it.

Ground and pound

With Wright at quarterback in place of the injured AJ Swann, Vanderbilt leaned heavily on its run game. Wright and running back Ray Davis both found big success on the ground despite a depleted offensive line that was without a starter in Bradley Ashmore and a rotational player in Xavier Castillo.

Both Wright and Davis made big plays. Wright ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Davis had a 45-yard run in the third quarter that led to a touchdown.

Bend, but don't break

The defense did a better job at keeping the ball in front, but Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was able to complete strong, accurate throws. Still, the Commodores avoided big, back-breaking plays and made stops in the red zone. In the first half, Vanderbilt forced two field goals and blocked a third, setting it up to lead 7-6 at halftime.

The Wildcats scored their first touchdown in the fourth quarter after big plays by running backs Rodriguez and JuTahn McClain to take their first lead since the opening drive. Vanderbilt sacked Levis on the 2-point conversion attempt to keep it within one.

Turnovers killer

Vanderbilt's first turnover came on its second play from scrimmage as Sheppard fumbled what would've been a first-down catch to set up a short field for Kentucky. In the second quarter, Wright was intercepted in the end zone with the Commodores driving. Vanderbilt also had the ball near field-goal range, but a facemask penalty took it out of field goal range and forced an unsuccessful Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half.

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