Bennett's 223 yards receiving moved him into 4th all time on the career receiving yards list with 2,245. Bennett’s 13 catches put him just 35 away from being the all time leader in receptions at Vanderbilt. This game solidified Bennett's place on the preseason All American list and will have him on Heisman watch lists all around the country.
Commodores' quarterback Chris Nickson had a very efficient night to start his second full season calling the signals. Nickson was 19-26 (73%) for 284 yards and one touchdown.
The win was Vanderbilt’s first season opening win at home since 1997. The 41 points scored was the most points scored in an opener since 1950.
Vanderbilt came out strong on the first play of the game. Outside linebacker Marcus Buggs hit Richmond quarterback Eric Ward, forcing a throw that was intercepted by defensive tackle Gabe Hall on Richmond's 24-yard line. The ensuing Vanderbilt drive stalled though when Brian Hahnfeldt missed a 33-yard field goal attempt.
Richmond came back with a 14-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended with an Andrew Howard 22-yard field goal that gave Richmond a 3-0 lead with 6:31 to go in the 1st quarter. Richmond did not keep the momentum for long, however, because Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Richmond 27-yard line. That return was all the Vanderbilt offense needed to get going. Jeff Jennings capped an eight play scoring drive with a 4 yard touchdown run giving the Commodores a 7-3 lead with 2:13 left to go in the first quarter.
The next Commodores score came with 5:31 to play in the second quarter when Chris Nickson hit Earl Bennett for a 15 yard touchdown.
Richmond answered on their next drive with a 7 play 67 yard touchdown drive that ended with a Tim Hightower 11-yard run. The Vanderbilt defense struggled in the first half giving up 201 yards of total offense.
Vanderbilt ended the first half on a high note when Nickson found Bennett in the end zone again, this time from 1 yard out. Vanderbilt went into the locker room at half time with a 21-10 lead and all of the momentum.
The Commodores came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Vanderbilt's opening drive of the second half covered 61 yards in just 3 plays with the scoring play coming on a Nickson to Bennett pass for a 49-yard touchdown. That play put the Commodores up 28-10 and pretty much put the nail in the Spiders’ coffin. Vanderbilt's defense rallied from a shaky first half where they allowed 201 yards to allow only 109 in the second half. Richmond's only scoring play of the second half was a 93 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Justin Rogers.
Vanderbilt quickly took the momentum back from Richmond following the kickoff return by marching down the field for another touchdown coming on a 3 yard touchdown reception by Jeff Jennings from Chris Nickson to make the score 38-17.
Vanderbilt got the season off to a good start on Saturday night. The passing game looked to be clicking on all cylinders. The running game looked a little rough at times but ended up having a solid night with 162 yards on 35 carries. Defensively the Commodores struggled in the 1st half, but made the necessary adjustments to shut the Spiders down in the second half. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said the main adjustment the Commodores made at halftime was to play more zone coverage. This was obviously the right adjustment as Richmond had only 28 yards passing in the second half. The Commodores took some positive steps in their season opener that gives them some momentum to carry into their first Southeastern Conference game against Alabama next Saturday.
The Spiders travel to Northeastern on Saturday.