NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Vanderbilt Commodores know they can be better. Coach Clark Lea also understands that Hawaii is a much-improved team playing for an entire state right now.

AJ Swann threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns as Vanderbilt held off Hawaii 35-28 Saturday night following a long lightning delay before the season opener for both teams.

“It was a sloppy game, and we were fortunate to come away with a win," Lea, the Vanderbilt coach, said. "The first credit goes to (Hawaii coach) Timmy Chang, who’s done a really nice job advancing that program. It’s a prideful team that was fighting for the state of Hawaii.”

Jayden McGowden returned a kickoff untouched 96 yards to put Vanderbilt ahead to stay at 14-7 midway through the first, and Swann threw a pair of TD passes to Will Sheppard. Swann found London Humphreys for a 32-yard TD and a 35-14 lead to start the fourth quarter.

Vanderbilt won a second straight opener in Lea's third season at his alma mater, though Hawaii scored twice in the fourth to force a thrilling finish.

The second TD came with 4:49 left on a 1-yard keeper by reserve quarterback Dalen Morris to pull within 35-28 after the Rainbow Warriors forced a turnover on downs. Hawaii nearly recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Jalen Smith's right elbow was out of bounds as he recovered the ball.

Vandy didn't seal the win until De'Rickey Wright picked off his second pass of the game with 1:43 left.

The Rainbow Warriors have yet to win on the road against a Southeastern Conference team. They dropped to 0-5 in such games and 3-11-1 all-time against current SEC teams.

Lightning within eight miles delayed the kickoff originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET until 9:10 p.m. with rain starting during the delay and continuing through much of the first half. It was just the third weather delay at home for Vanderbilt since 2006 and first since the 2014 season opener against Temple.

The Rainbow Warriors, routed 63-10 at home by Vanderbilt a year ago, took a 7-6 lead with Brayden Schager hitting Steven McBride on a 9-yard TD pass in the first quarter.

Vanderbilt immediately answered with McGowan's kickoff return to put the Commodores ahead to stay.

Schager hit McBride again on a 45-yard TD pass on fourth-and-4, and Hawaii thought it scored on a fumble recovered in the end zone. The score was overturned on review with the ball ruled down at the 1. Tight end Greyson Murphy then was flagged for a false start.

Wright picked off Schager's next pass in the end zone, getting a foot down for the interception.

“They had a chip on their shoulder, especially like how we (beat) them last year and they fully believed that they could beat us,” Wright said.


Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors need to work on the run portion of the offense. They managed 11 yards on the ground early, though Schager started his second season in this offense completing his first eight passes for 86 yards before his first incompletion.

Schager threw for 351 yards and three TDs helping Hawaii outgain Vandy 391-297 in total offense.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores will have to work on the offensive line. They gave up three sacks and were outgained 40-39 in rushing despite Patrick Smith's 21-yard TD in the first quarter.


Vanderbilt is in the midst of the first major renovation of the SEC’s smallest football stadium since 1981 with construction ongoing in both end zones. A pair of cranes held up the temporary videoboard that swayed with the winds during the delay. Temporary game clocks are in each end zone.


Vanderbilt previously announced a portion of ticket sales from this game would be donated to the Maui Strong Fund to help with recovery from the recent wildfires. Lea said they wanted to recognize everyone hurting from those fires, adding: “Obviously, our hearts remain with them.”


Hawaii has a quick turnaround hosting Stanford on Friday night.

Vanderbilt hosts Alabama A&M on Saturday night.


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