NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett spent the first two years of his college career breaking receiving records. The first game of his junior year brought more of the same on Saturday evening at Vanderbilt's Dudley Field.
Bennett caught 13 passes for a school-record 223 yards and three touchdowns, as the Commodores defeated Richmond 41-17 in the season opener for both teams.
Chris Nickson threw for 284 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes in 3 ½ quarters.
"The coaches had great calls, and caught them off-guard with the defense they were in," said Bennett, who added 62 yards on three punt returns..
Richmond took an early 3-0 lead on an Andrew Howard field goal at 6:31 of the first quarter.
But the Commodores' D.J. Moore returned the kickoff 62 yards to the Richmond 27, and eight plays later, Jennings took a pitch from Nickson on a third-and-goal and took it 4 yards to the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
Bennett caught a 15-yard pass for a score with 5:31 remaining in the first half, but the Spiders marched down the field on a 7-play, 67-yard drive capped by Tim Hightower's 11-yard run with 2:35 left, cutting the Vandy lead to 14-10.
But Vandy got some breathing room just before halftime. Keyed by Nickson's 32-yard to Sean Walker that took Vandy to the UR 27. Several plays later, Nickson scrambled on a third-and-10 down to the 1, setting up a 1-yard touchdown toss to Bennett just before the half.
After the break, Nickson hit Bennett on the third play of the second half for a 28-10 Commodore lead.
The Commodores added a pair of Bryant Hahnfeldt field goals later in the half, and a 3-yard Nickson-to-Jennings TD pass.
Vanderbilt faces Alabama in Nashville next Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 11:40.