Mike Wright benched as Vanderbilt football loses to Wake Forest

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean

AJ Swann came into Saturday's game and did what Vanderbilt football needed its quarterback to do to beat Wake Forest.

He led two touchdown drives late in the game, completing downfield passes and even running for a two-point conversion.

Unfortunately, his performance came late in the game after starter Mike Wright was benched and the Commodores' offense had committed three turnovers.

Vanderbilt  (2-1) had an opportunity to make some noise against No. 21 Wake Forest (2-0) on Saturday. A win or a close game could have put the program on more radars in Year 2 under Clark Lea. But despite the defense performing much better than it did last week against Elon, the Commodores were unable to get out of their own way in a 45-25  loss at FirstBank Stadium.

VANDY UNITED:Vanderbilt announces upgrades to tennis facilities as part of Vandy United

WRIGHT BENCHED:Vanderbilt football quarterback AJ Swann leads TD drive after Mike Wright benched vs. Wake Forest

Vanderbilt miscues

Vanderbilt kept pace with Wake Forest through the first 10 minutes of the first quarter. But a series of mistakes as the clock wound down gave the Demon Deacons an advantage. First, Wright had an interception returned for a touchdown, then Wake Forest got a 68-yard touchdown pass, then Wright fumbled on a keeper, leading to another Demon Deacons touchdown.

The Commodores did get a touchdown back when Wake Forest muffed a punt and Vanderbilt took advantage of the short field for a touchdown.

In the third quarter, Wright caught a pass that was batted at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a loss of 11 yards, and running back Ray Davis fumbled on the next play. The Demon Deacons found the end zone two plays later.

Slow mesh

Wake Forest is known for its unique slow mesh offense that confuses defenses by waiting for them to overcommit, and it was even more impactful Saturday with the debut of starting quarterback Sam Hartman.

Lea is familiar with the slow mesh from his time working with the Demon Deacons in 2016. Vanderbilt's defense did look relatively well-prepared for the slow mesh, but Wake Forest was still able to get off enough big plays to put points on the board, while the Commodores struggled to move the ball down the field.

Contrary to their usual, the Demon Deacons were able to turn defense into offense by stealing extra possessions and getting off the field quickly.

Wright was 8-for-15 with just 35 passing yards and rushed eight times for 17 yards.

QB controversy?

Wright was benched in the third quarter after catching the batted pass. Swann came in and led the team down the field for a touchdown drive, capped off by a two-point conversion run.

Swann's second drive was less successful, as he was sacked and then completed a pass for a loss to go three-and-out.

Swann was 8-for-11 for 186 yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing two-point conversion.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at or on Twitter @aria_gerson.