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NCAAF: Stanford, Vanderbilt out to establish identity

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Talk about your dramatic turnarounds.

After weak efforts in season-opening losses, Stanford and Vanderbilt performed 180s and won road games to square their records at 1-1.

The stark contrast brings mystery and intrigue into their meeting Saturday night in Nashville.

Stanford pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the early season, going into Los Angeles as a 17-point underdog and routing then-No. 14 USC 42-28 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Freshman quarterback Tanner McKee hit on 16 of 23 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns in his first start.

While Trojans coach Clay Helton paid the price Monday by getting fired, the Cardinal got a result it had to have after a drab 24-7 loss to Kansas State.

“Pregame, you’re thinking of nerves and so many things can happen,” McKee said to the San Jose Mercury News. “Once you get out there, you realize you’ve seen this front a million times in practice, you’ve run through it in walkthroughs … I felt very comfortable out there.”

Stanford actually led 42-13 in the fourth quarter before USC scored a pair of garbage-time touchdowns to make the final margin look more respectable.

Vanderbilt went about its 24-21 win at Colorado State much differently. The Commodores fell behind 14-0 and could have been down 20-0 if the Rams could have made two field goals.

Instead, the kicks were missed and Vanderbilt rallied.

The Commodores led 21-14 until Colorado State tied the game with three minutes left, then put together a 40-yard drive with the help of two 15-yard penalties that teed up Alabama transfer Joe Bulovas for a 38-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.

“I’m more happy for every single one of those guys in the locker room right now that I was able to do my part and I was able to get this team to the outcome that we wanted,” quarterback Ken Seals said. “I’ll never forget hugging my teammates and almost being on the verge of tears.”

It was the first win for the Commodores since 2019, snapping an 11-game losing streak, and the first victory for new coach Clark Lea.

–Field Level Media

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