NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Larry Smith threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score, and Vanderbilt beat Elon 45-14 Saturday night in coach James Franklin's debut with the Commodores.
Franklin showed his willingness to gamble with the team considered the worst in the Southeastern Conference, going for it on fourth down three times to keep drives alive scoring 17 points. Smith converted the second on fourth-and-3, running 16 yards for a TD.
The win snapped a seven-game skid for the Commodores who scored more points than they did in all but two games last season. When Trey Wilson picked off a pass and ran it 21 yards for a TD after Smith's second score, Vandy had almost as many points in 14 seconds as the Commodores averaged (16.9) per game in 2010.
Elon outgained the Commodores 323-309 in total offense and held the ball for more than 35 minutes. But Vanderbilt forced three turnovers and turned each of them into touchdowns.
This was Jason Swepson's coaching debut with the Phoenix, and he opened with only Elon's fourth game ever against a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Swepson also had to replace a quarterback in Scott Riddle that helped Elon rank second in the FBS last season, averaging 306.4 yards passing per game.
Thomas Wilson did pretty well early. He was 12 of 17 for 169 yards in the first half, but the junior finished 17 of 27 for 233 yards with two interceptions and was replaced late by redshirt freshman Tyler Smith.
Franklin's specialty is offense, and the Commodores did show off some new wrinkles.
Running back Zac Stacy took the snap on one play and handed off to cornerback Casey Hayward. Only a step out of bounds trimmed a would-be touchdown to a 23-yard run. The drive also featured the first attempt on fourth down, and Smith found Brandon Barden for a 14-yard catch before capping the drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Fitz Lassing for a 7-0 lead.
The Commodores converted their third fourth down in the third quarter when freshman Micah Powell picked up 4 yards on fourth-and-1. That drive bogged down, and Vandy settled for a 33-yard field goal by Casey Spears for a 24-14 lead.
Smith has been the starter the past two seasons and completed just 47.4 percent of his passes in 2010. He looked better eluding pressure and tossed TD passes to Fitz Lassing and Chris Boyd. Smith also ran four times for 34 yards yards, including his TD run, and he was 13 of 27 for 125 yards.
Vanderbilt was up so much Franklin put in Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the junior college transfer who sat out last season with a shoulder injury found Boyd on his first throw for a 30-yard TD and a 45-14 lead.
The Associated Press News Service
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