NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- AJ Swann threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns as Vanderbilt held off Hawaii 35-28 Saturday night following a long lightning delay before the season opener for both teams.
Jayden McGowden returned a kickoff untouched 96 yards to put Vanderbilt ahead to stay at 14-7 midway through the first, and Swann added a 7-yard TD pass to Will Sheppard to start the second quarter. Sheppard also caught a 1-yard TD toss in the third to cap a drive he started with a 27-yard punt return.
Hawaii scored twice in the fourth to force a thrilling finish. The second TD came with 4:49 left on a 1-yard keeper by reserve quarterback Dalen Morris to pull within 35-28 after the Rainbow Warriors forced a turnover on downs.
They thought they recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Jalen Smith's right elbow was out of bounds as he recovered the ball. Vandy didn't seal the win until De'Rickey Wright picked off his second pass of the game with 1:43 left.
The Rainbow Warriors have yet to win on the road against a Southeastern Conference team. They dropped to 0-5 in such games and 3-11-1 all-time against current SEC teams.
Lightning within eight miles delayed the kickoff originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET until 9:10 p.m. with rain starting during the delay and continuing through much of the first half. It was just the third weather delay at home for Vanderbilt since 2006 and first since the 2014 season opener against Temple.
Vanderbilt immediately answered with McGowan's kickoff return to put the Commodores ahead to stay.
Schager hit McBride again on a 45-yard TD pass on fourth-and-4, and Hawaii thought it scored on a fumble recovered in the end zone. The score was overturned on review with the ball ruled down at the 1. Tight end Greyson Murphy then was flagged for a false start.
Wright picked off Schager's next pass in the end zone, getting a foot down for the interception.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors need to work on the run portion of coach Timmy Chang's run-and-shoot offense. They managed 11 yards on the ground early, though Schager started his second season in this offense completing his first eight passes for 86 yards before his first incompletion.
Schager threw for 351 yards and three TDs helping Hawaii outgain Vandy 391-297 in total offense.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores will have to work on the offensive line. They gave up three sacks and were outgained 40-39 in rushing despite Patrick Smith's 21-yard TD in the first quarter.
Vanderbilt is in the midst of the first major renovation of the SEC's smallest football stadium since 1981 with construction ongoing in both end zones. A pair of cranes held up the temporary videoboard that swayed with the winds during the delay.
Officials had to remind the operator of the temporary clocks in each end zone to put 15 minutes on the game clock before the opening kickoff not once, but twice. The operator needed a couple minutes to get that right.
Hawaii has a quick turnaround hosting Stanford on Friday night.
Vanderbilt hosts Alabama A&M on Saturday night.