Vandy fails to overcome strong first half by Stanford
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- - The Stanford Cardinal finally are heading home to play in front of fans in their own stadium, and they're taking a two-game winning streak with them.
Tanner McKee ran for a touchdown and threw for two more as Stanford beat Vanderbilt 41-23 Saturday night in the first meeting between the programs best known for their academics.
Stanford (2-1) started the season playing the first three games on the road, the only Power Five program this season to even play its first two straight games away from home. That's after playing the final four games of the 2020 season away from home because of the pandemic.
"It's been a long time," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Was kind of being facetious at the end of the game. We have to give the guys a map to the game day locker room. We haven't been there in so long. We're excited. We're excited to finally be able to go home. It's been a long road trip."
Vanderbilt (1-2) lost its eighth straight at home. The Commodores' last home win was Nov. 23, 2019.
Stanford took control scoring 13 points in the final 1:53 of the second quarter. The Cardinal then scored on the first possession of the third quarter for 20 points.
"It was fast," Shaw said. "A lot of stuff happened."
Joshua Karty kicked a 46-yard field goal, then Jimmy Wyrick picked off a Ken Seals' pass for the first interception of his career. That set up McKee's second TD pass of the half, a 5-yarder to Brycen Tremayne with 40 seconds left.
The Cardinal defense forced the first three-and-out by Vandy. Casey Filkins returned the punt 48 yards to the Vandy 22, and an illegal formation penalty on the Commodores moved the ball to the 17. Karty came out for the easy 35-yarder for a 27-14 halftime lead. Those were the first field goals of the sophomore kicker's career.
Stanford made it 20 straight after forcing Vanderbilt three-and-out again to open the third quarter. McKee capped a 55-yard drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Jay Symonds for a 34-14 lead.
Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea called it a frustrating point in the game and something that will be a teaching point. The Commodores had the ball to start the third quarter and went three-and-out.
"That was a killer swing of momentum for us tonight," Lea said.
McKee finished with 218 yards passing in the second straight start of his career. The sophomore completed at least one pass to nine different receivers. Nathaniel Peat and E.J. Smith ran for a TD apiece.
"I feel like we had answers because we were 100% with what they were going to do (on defense)," McKee said.
The Cardinal had a 422-398 edge in total offense as Vanderbilt scored a TD on the final play of the game.
Stanford: The Cardinal came into this game perfect in the red zone, a streak that ended in the second quarter despite having first-and-goal at the Vandy 2. Stanford had a pass batted down, then three runs stopped to turn the ball over on downs. That was the only one of the Cardinal's first seven drives that didn't end in points, and Shaw blamed himself choosing to go for it on fourth down.
"I would love to have that call back ...," Shaw said. "Also, I just called the wrong one. I should've called something else."
Vanderbilt: The Commodores played with confidence and some of their best execution in a season or two. Re'Mahn Davis' 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal was Vandy's first score on its opening drive of a game since Nov. 21, 2020, against Florida. It also came on a 14-play drive that was their longest this season.
The Dores followed that with a 98-yard drive that was their longest in yards since going 98 yards against Florida on Oct. 13, 2018. Rocko Griffin ran for a career-high 107 yards on 19 carries.
But Seals also has three interceptions in as many games.
Davis ran 12 times for 76 yards, including a nice spin move on a 26-yarder. But the Vanderbilt running back watched the second half from the sideline with his right foot in a walking boot. Lea didn't have an update after the game.
Stanford hosts UCLA next Saturday in the Cardinal's first home game of the season.
Vanderbilt hosts No. 2 Georgia next Saturday.