Vanderbilt is aiming to bounce back from a loss when it heads to DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday for a clash with Northern Illinois.
It will be the second road game of the season for the Commodores (2-1) but a much shorter trip. In its opener, Vanderbilt traveled more than 4,000 miles to go to Hawaii, where it earned a 53-point victory.
NIU (1-1) is just a fraction of that distance away at about 540 miles.
Last week against then-No. 23 Wake Forest, Vanderbilt suffered its first loss by committing three turnovers that led to scores, forcing second-year coach Clark Lea to change quarterbacks, a move that created questions at the position.
“We knew we couldn’t give their offense extra possessions,” Lea said after the 45-25 home setback. “Giving up 21 points off turnovers is not going to be a formula against good teams, especially a good offense.”
Starter Mike Wright threw a pick-six and lost a fumble amid a passing performance that featured just eight completions for 35 yards through nearly three quarters. Lea then turned to AJ Swann, who completed 8 of 11 passes for 146 yards, with touchdowns to Will Sheppard and Gavin Schoenwald.
After this road contest against the MAC foe, Vanderbilt will start SEC play against three elite programs — No. 2 Alabama, No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 1 Georgia.
The Huskies are coming off a loss, too. NIU led twice in the fourth quarter at Tulsa on Saturday night, but the Golden Hurricane rallied both times for a 38-35 win.
NIU’s Rocky Lombardi completed 18 of 31 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
The game swung on coach Thomas Hammock’s fourth-and-4 gamble near midfield with 1:58 left. NIU was up 35-31, and a conversion could have helped seal the win, but the call backfired on an incomplete pass. On the ensuing drive, Tulsa went 52 yards for the game-winning score.
“We had an opportunity to win the game on offense on fourth down,” Hammock said. “I told my staff this morning, ‘If we’ve got a chance to go win this game on offense, we’re going to do that.’ We just didn’t make the play.”
–Field Level Media