Kyle Shurmur threw for 296 yards and tied his career-high with three touchdowns as the Vanderbilt Commodores beat Middle Tennessee 28-6 Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Commodores snapped a five-year skid in season openers to give coach Derek Mason his first victory to kick off his fourth season in charge. They also won their third straight against the Conference USA school 37 miles away from Nashville.
Vanderbilt came out throwing with Shurmur, and the junior quarterback didn't disappoint. He completed 13 of his first 14 passes, including a 37-yard TD pass to Kalija Lipscomb to cap the opening drive. He added a 4-yard TD pass to Lipscomb for a 21-0 lead minutes into the second quarter.
Ralph Webb, the Commodores' all-time leading rusher, also added a 1-yard TD run. Shurmur hit Webb on a swing pass that the senior took 73 yards for a 28-0 lead in the third.
The Commodores smothered what was a high-powered offense in 2016 with Middle Tennessee running up 495 yards against Vanderbilt last season. The Blue Raiders averaged 517.7 yards and ranked 12th nationally scoring 39.7 points per game.
Bryce Lewis intercepted a tipped pass to set up Webb's TD, and the Commodores also sacked Stockstill five times. The Blue Raiders avoided being shut out at home when Stockstill found Richie James for a 22-yard TD early in the fourth.
VANDERBILT: If Shurmur keeps playing like this, the Commodores finally will be able to keep opponents from stacking the line to smother Webb. Shurmur looks like he picked up where he left off last season when he threw for 1,162 yards combined in the final four games of the regular season.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE: A disappointing start for the Blue Raiders after getting the Southeastern Conference team to visit their campus for the second time in three years. This appeared to be the easiest of their first three games against Power Five teams.
Vanderbilt scored on three drives of at least 75 yards or longer against first-year defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. The Commodores' 14-0 lead tied the most points they've scored in the first quarter since Sept. 20, 2014, against South Carolina. Middle Tennessee was held to four consecutive three-and-outs not counting the drive at the end of the first half.
VANDERBILT: Hosts Alabama A&M.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE: Visits Syracuse.