NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — AJ Swann threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns as Vanderbilt held off Hawai’i 35-28 Saturday night following a long lightning delay before the season opener for both teams.
Jayden McGowden returned a kickoff untouched 97 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.
Swann found London Humphreys for a 32-yard TD and a 35-14 lead to start the fourth quarter as Vanderbilt won a second straight opener in coach Clark Lea’s third season at his alma mater.
Hawai’i 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.
Lightning within eight miles delayed the kickoff originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET until 9:11 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.
The Rainbow Warriors, routed 63-10 at home by Vanderbilt a year ago, took a 7-6 lead with Brayden Schager hitting Steven McBride on a 9-yard TD pass in the first quarter.
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 Hawai’i 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.