Soccer Vanderbilt | Dores dominates in 2022 opener

HONOLULU— Vanderbilt knew exactly what he was getting into.

Nine days after a video surfaced on social media featuring a member of the Hawaii football team implying that the Commodores were going to have a rough night at TC Ching Stadium, Vandy did anything but rough it up during a a 63-10 beating. rainbow warriors.

“Our head coach literally showed us this video about 10 times during the week. Even when we came here during team dinners, it would be on the screen,” said Maxwell Worship, senior security at Vandy: “Everything that’s happened, everything since we’ve been here has been moved as motivation. Coach Lea and all the coaches made sure to really use all of those things as motivation for our team.

“We wanted to make a statement. We really wanted the world to see that we are a different team this year. We will earn everyone’s respect this year.

The cult had the game of the day in what turned the script on what turned out to be a historic day for head coach Clark Lea’s program.

Vanderbilt racked up more than 600 total yards, scored two defensive touchdowns and saw six different Commodores find the end zone en route to his most points since beating Davidson 63-8 in 1969. A slow start gave way to a steamroller of an effort that hasn’t been seen in a long, long time for the black-and-gold faithful.

The 53-point win was the program’s biggest since a 58-0 thrashing of Presbyterian on September 17, 2012.

“It’s a program we’re building, it’s an identity we’re building. It’s not something we want to celebrate, it’s something we want to look forward to,” Lea said. “I think those of us who were there a year ago, down 7-3 in the second quarter, can appreciate how far we’ve come. But the sooner we move to a mode of operation in line with our expectations, the better it will be for this program.

“It’s not the goal, it’s not the end point. It’s the start, it’s the start of the journey and there’s a lot more for this team to achieve.

Vandy dominated both offensively and defensively after falling 7-0 in the first quarter.

The Dores averaged 9.2 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per play. They had two fumble recoveries, both of which were tagged. They stopped Hawai’i all four times the Rainbow Warriors went for it on fourth down. They went 6 for 6 in the red zone.

Individually, quarterback Mike Wright rushed for 163 yards and two scores and threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Will Sheppard had two touchdown passes. Ray Davis and Rocko Griffin combined for 150 rushing yards and both found the end zone once each.

Worship led the way defensively with seven saves, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in the end zone.

“I think at the start of the game we faced a bit of adversity. Then after scoring and coming back in defense, that was kind of a statement,” Worship said. “It was kind of like the tone that set the tone, ‘OK, it’s another Vanderbilt football team.’ Last year (being down 7-0) could have happened and we might have fallen back a bit.

“No, we carried on and that’s what we did the whole game.”

Vanderbilt couldn’t have had a worse start on Saturday.

Dedrick Parson opened the game by capping Hawai’i’s first offensive drive by scoring on an untouched 37-yard run down the left side. Forward Vandy then committed three penalties, one of which was disallowed, before being forced to clear.

And on the Dores’ second offensive series, Wright was forced to throw a fourth pass out of bounds to avoid any sort of serious disaster.

But then Vandy settled down. An eight-play, 90-yard drive ended with Wright taking a one-step drop and throwing a ball into the right corner of the end zone where Sheppard, all alone, was waiting.

Fifteen game clock seconds later came the biggest play of the day.

Worship read the Hawai’i formation and played the call and crashed on a run from Parson to the right side. He met the ball carrier with his helmet on, popping the ball through the air and into the arms of a waiting Anfernee Orji. Orji took 28 yards the other way for six – and Vanderbilt never trailed again.

“I already knew what was coming,” Worship said. “I fell, he tried to cut me down, I had a perfect tackle on him, my helmet was on the ball, he came out, (Orji) got it. A little lucky, but, shoot, when you have a lot of energy, the ball finds a way to reach you.

Leading 14-10, Wright scored from a yard goal before halftime to give Vandy a 21-10 lead. That play was set up by a 4th and 7th pass that went through the hands of Devin Boddie and landed in the guts of Jayden McGowan for a chance conversion.

Vanderbilt opened the second half strong with a three-play drive that ended on Griffin’s 9-yard touchdown run.

The rout had only just begun.

Davis scored soon after on a 12-yard run, then CJ Taylor recovered a fumble caused by Elijah McAllister that made it 42-10. Wright broke for an 87-yard touchdown run to put the Commodores ahead 49-10 with 5:49 left in the third quarter.

Another Wright touchdown at Sheppard gave the Dores a 56-10 lead and gave them 35 points in the third quarter alone. Many of the 9,346 fans in attendance began to return home at this time.

Now the Commodores are heading home 1-0 for the first time since 2018. They’ll be celebrating late into the night on the long flight back to the mainland, but they know that once they touch down in Nashville, the page will turn to week 2.

“It’s a springboard. I don’t believe in momentum. I believe in growing a team as a program,” Wright said. “We have taken a step. We took a step in growth today and we need to take another step next week. We must continue. That’s our goal: to play at the highest level as a team. We are not yet at our highest level.

  • Vandy’s 35 points in the third quarter were the most in a single period as he scored 35 points in the second quarter against Austin Peay on September 7, 2013.
  • Wright became Vandy’s fourth quarterback since 1996 to rush for two touchdowns and throw for two touchdowns in the same game since 1996 and the first since Chris Nickson did so against Duke on Oct. 28, 2006.
  • Orji’s recovery and fumble touchdown were both the first of his career.
  • Worship’s forced fumble in the first quarter was the first of his career.
  • Orji’s score was the first defensive touchdown for Vanderbilt since Allan George returned a fumble against Kentucky on Nov. 16, 2019.
  • Taylor’s touchdown was the first of his career.
  • The Commodores last recorded two defensive touchdowns in a single game on September 21, 2019.
  • Wright’s 87-yard touchdown was the second-longest rush in Vanderbilt history.
  • Vanderbilt last started a 1-0 season in 2018 and last started a season with a road win in 2017.
  • The Commodores last started a 2-0 season in 2018.
  • August 27 marked the first calendar date that Vanderbilt had ever started a season in the program’s history.
  • Vanderbilt has gone 5-0 in the past nine months against Hawaii. Vandy’s men’s basketball team defeated Hawai’i 68-54 in December in Honolulu and the baseball team won four games in March (9-2, 12-1, 13-1 and 2-1, respectively ) in Honolulu.
  • Vanderbilt’s football program has now played a game in 30 states as well as the District of Columbia.
  • Vandy is now 1-0 against Hawai’i and 4-4 all-time against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
  • Vanderbilt is now 1-5 in games played in August.
  • Saturday’s attendance was announced at 9,346.