Nashville, TN (Sports Network) – Dan Persa threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Northwestern Wildcats to a slim, 23-21 advantage over the Vanderbilt Commodores in a non-conference battle at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Persa, who completed 19-of-21 passes, also led the ground attack for Northwestern (1-0), rushing for 82 yards on 17 carries. Jeremy Ebert was the main target for Persa, as the wide out finished with 99 yards and one score on five receptions.
As for the Commodores (0-1), they were led by Larry Smith, who threw for 240 yards and one score on 19-of-33 passing. Smith added 48 rushing yards in the matchup, while Zac Stacy led the way with 69 yards and one score on 7.7 yards per carry.
Northwestern broke the scoreless tie midway through the first quarter, as the team capped off an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal by Stefan Demos.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 10-0 just a few minutes later when Persa found Ebert for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Vandy finally found the scoreboard late in the second quarter when Warren Norman plunged into the end zone on a four-yard run. However, the extra point by Ryan Fowler was no good, leaving the Commodores down, 10-6.
Fowler redeemed himself on the final player of the first half, as he connected on a 30-yard kick to send Vandy into the break down 10-9.
With just over five minutes remaining in the third frame Persa connected with Drake Dunsmore on a nine-yard touchdown pass.
However, Vandy cut its deficit to 17-15 on its next possession, as Smith found Brandon Barden for a 36-yard scoring strike.
Late in the final stanza Persa hit Josh Rooks with a two-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point was unsuccessful, leaving the Wildcats with a 23-15 edge, and more importantly giving the Commodores a chance to tie the game on one possession.
With just over two minutes remaining in regulation Stacy found the end zone on a 33-yard run for Vandy, but Smith’s run on a two-point attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the Wildcats in front by a two-point margin.
Northwestern, which finished with 365 total yards, was able to hold on to its slim lead en route to the season opening victory.