NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Trent Sherfield may not have known he was on the brink of a record-setting performance Saturday, but his coach did.
Sherfield’s 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter of Vanderbilt’s 47-7 win over Austin Peay gave the sophomore 16 catches for 240 yards — the latter of which is the most by a Commodore in a single game.
“I knew,” second-year Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “I wanted him to have the record. I wanted him to have the catch. He’s worked hard. You reward guys for the work they do. That’s what I believe. I talked to (receivers coach) Cortez Hankton, I said, `keep him in, let’s play, let’s keep doing what we’re doing.’ He got the catch, we got him out of the game.”
By then, the game was long decided — due in large part to a 16-point outburst in the late moments of the second quarter, when Vanderbilt rallied from a 7-3 deficit to take a 19-7 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Trailing after a muffed punt and a short Austin Peay drive capped by Trey Taylor‘s 14-yard touchdown pass to Rashaan Coleman, the Commodores (1-2) answered with a Ralph Webb 3-yard scoring run. The hosts’ next two possessions resulted in a 38-yard field goal by Tommy Openshaw — his second of the game — and a Webb 9-yard pass from Johnny McCrary.
The points continued to come in the third quarter, as Webb scored from 2 yards out, Sherfield caught a 26-yard pass for a touchdown and McCrary ran one in from the Austin Peay 16 to make it a 40-7 game.
Vanderbilt’s offensive rhythm seemed to rub off on the defense, which forced four three-and-out Austin Peay possessions — three in the opening half when the Commodores took control of the contest.
“It’s certainly a factor and there’s always a frustration level that begins to build on the defense too when you have consecutive one-two and three outs and you’re not playing very well on offense,” Austin Peay coach Kirby Cannon said.
“There is a frustration level there that sometimes can lead to better play and most times it leads to a little bit less effort out of the defensive side because there doesn’t seem to be much chance of us scoring.”
Sherfield’s effort moved him ahead of Earl Bennett’s 223-yard performance in Vanderbilt’s 2007 season opener against Richmond.
“I wasn’t really aware,” he said of approaching the mark. “But it definitely means a lot. Working with Johnny and the rest of the receiving corps over the summer really paid off.”
McCrary finished with 368 passing yards, completing 28 of 33 attempts — including 11 straight — to set a school single-game mark for completion percentage with 84.8 and break a record that had stood for 54 yards (Hank Lesesne, 81.8 vs. Georgia, 1961).
“It’s just progression,” McCrary said of his performance, which also included 41 rushing yards. “It’s a team effort. The guys played really well — as a team, defensively, special teams. We did a lot of good things.”
McCrary had thrown five interceptions in Vanderbilt’s losses to Western Kentucky and Georgia, three in the red zone.
“I saw a lot of good things from this team,” Mason said. “What we have to continue to do is understand — if we play hard, we don’t give up stuff, there are opportunities out here for us.
“This is a game we should have won. This is a game we had the opportunity to win, and the guys did that. That’s what you have to do, beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, and then maybe surprise some other teams.”