DEKALB, Ill. –Freshman quarterback AJ Swann threw four touchdown passes and Vanderbilt rallied in a 38-28 non-conference win over Northern Illinois on Saturday.
Swann, making his third appearance and first career start, pulled off a comeback after going down two touchdowns as the Commodores (3-1) scored an unanswered 24 points in the second half. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards and all four scores.
Northern Illinois (1-2) suffered its second straight loss as starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi left the game in the second quarter with an unspecified injury.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the third quarter, Swann cut the margin to 28-21 with 6:44 left as he rushed to find running back Ray Davis on fourth down for 21 yards. .
Vanderbilt then forced a 28-28 stalemate with Swann’s 31-yard TD pass to Will Sheppard with 4:36 showing. Swann and Sheppard combined again on a 13-yard strike and a 35-28 lead with 1:11 left in the quarter. Kicker Joseph Bulovas scored 38-28 with his 35-yard field goal early in the fourth.
Sheppard closed with 10 receptions for 171 yards.
Vanderbilt improved to 5-0 all-time against Northern Illinois.
Huskies backup quarterback Ethan Hampton, who went 12 of 19 for 124 yards and two touchdowns, combined with wide receiver Tucker Cole on a 70-yard touchdown pass for a 28-14 third-quarter lead, but the Huskies were shut out the rest of the way.
Swann led a 12-play, 80-yard opener, including a 3-yard TD strike to wide receiver Gavin Schoenwald. The Huskies forced a 7-7 tie nearly three minutes later with Lombardi’s 1-yard touchdown throw to Cole Tucker.
Vanderbilt went 14-7 early in the second quarter on Davis’ 3-yard run.
The Huskies stayed mostly on the ground in a 14-14 tie, rushing nine times. A surprise backhand deep in Commodore territory set up Hampton’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Kacper Rutkiewicz at 5:32.
Antario Brown crossed the line at 2nd and 3rd near midfield as a 51-yard touchdown sprint helped Northern Illinois take a 21-14 lead with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Commodores travel to No. 2 Alabama, the defending SEC champions, in a conference opener on Saturday.