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Commodores storm past Eastern Michigan, 52-6

NASHVILLE— Vanderbilt raced to a 31-3 halftime lead and coasted methodically to a 52-6 win over Eastern Michigan University Saturday evening at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores improved their record to 2-3, while the Eagles from the Mid-American Conference fell to 0-6.

The 52 points made for Vandy's biggest point total since 1999, but that wasn't the only gaudy total. Vanderbilt's offense racked up 24 first downs and 558 total yards. Larry Smith threw for 253 yards, the second-highest total of his career, and accounted for three scores. Even backup quarterback Jared Funk got into the act, throwing for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

It was the 18th loss in a row for the Eagles under coach Ron English. Though the competition was nowhere near Southeastern Conference caliber, the Commodores nonetheless took care of business and were able to put the game out of reach early.

"I'm very proud of all phases," said Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell, who picked up his second career coaching win. "The defense did a great job. It took us little while figure them out, but we finally slammed the door on them."

"Offensively it took us a little while. I think [John Cole's] punt return early... helped us."

It was a night of big plays, and a breakthrough night for the receiving corps. Eleven different receivers registered catches, and three receivers (John Cole, Udom Umoh and Mason Johnston) scored touchdowns. Cole, who turned in a 103-yard receiving night, scored on a 57-yarder and a nearly had a score on a 54-yard punt return.

Zac Stacy scored on a 67-yard run from scrimmage, and led the team in rushing with 90 yards.

"Our offense had been struggling, but we were able to get both the passing game and the running game going tonight," said Cole. "We were able to capitalize with some big plays. Hitting on some passing plays really opens up the running game.

"We were able to get a lot of guys experience tonight, which is good. You never know when one of your starters is going to go down. At the same time, it was good that we were able to score early and gain some confidence."

Cole's spinning, twisting 54-yard punt return, which was spotted inches away from the EMU goal line, set the tone for the evening. When Smith sneaked the ball into the end zone on the first offensive play to give his team a 7-0 lead, Vanderbilt had its first first-quarter points of the season.

Eastern Michigan answered with a field goal. The 7-3 score held up until 10:13 left in the second quarter, when Warren Norman burst up the middle for a 19-yard score. After Tim Fugger forced a fumble on the ensuing series, the Commodores capitalized with a 23-yard Ryan Fowler field goal to take a 17-3 lead.

But the second-quarter fireworks weren't over. Smith would hit Umoh with a pass down the middle, and the junior from Georgia sped 65 yards for a score. Then, getting the ball back with 2:05 to play in the half, the Commodore executed a beauty of a two-minute drill and scored on a 2-yard pass to Johnston, a freshman tight end.

Vanderbilt scored twice more in the third quarter, on a 67-yard explosion by Zac Stacy, and on a 56-yard drive set up by an onsides kick. The coaches substituted liberally on offense in the fourth quarter, with Jared Funk seeing action at quarterback. Funk's first pass, a sideline pass to John Cole, went 57 yards for a touchdown.

It certainly wasn't a perfect outing— there were bad snaps, Eastern Michigan receivers left wide open, and some misfires by Vandy's Smith to wide-open receivers in the end zone. But in the locker room afterwards, no one was complaining.

"I've never seen a game get away from you so fast," said Eastern Michigan coach Ron English. "I think at this level, when you don't take advantage of opportunities, or you don't put pressure on the other team, particularly when you're not really talented yourself, you're going to struggle."

The Commodores (2-3, 1-1 in the SEC) resume Southeastern Conference wars next Saturday with a road trip to Athens, Ga. Kickoff for the Vanderbilt-Georgia contest has been set for 11:21 a.m. CT, and the SEC Network will televise the game regionally. The Bulldogs defeated Tennessee Saturday to improve to 2-4, 1-3.

GAME NOTES:

The Commodores were without the services of starters Chris Marve at linebacker and T.J. Greenstone at defensive tackle. Nate Campbell got the start in place of Marve, and the Commodores played a heavy dose of nickel defense with Jamie Graham playing the nickelback. Also getting his first start was Kenneth Ladler at safety.

Vanderbilt is now 10-3 all-time vs. current members of the Mid-American Conference, and has won five in a row.

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