Game #331 – Hawai’i @ Vanderbilt

Dare to Grow. These three words encapsulate the initiative to boost the athletic facilities on campus. An improvement on the gridiron is the hopeful byproduct of this investment. In his third year as Vanderbilt, head coach Clark Lea is hoping to continue the upward trend in the win column. The future begins with the Rainbow Warriors.

A significant amount of Hawai’i fans came to cheer their team on the mainland. Hula meets Honky Tonk. The fans would be greeted by a stadium completely gutted behind the north and south end zones. Construction around First Bank Stadium has temporarily lowered the capacity but has significantly heightened optimism. Luxury suites and amenities are on their way, but in the meantime, fans will have to get from one side of the stadium to the other by way of makeshift rickety stairs and a dirt pathway surrounded by metal and cranes.

The pregame showed minimal signs of being diminished by the caution tape. Fans popped up the tents, blasted the music, and shared the libations. Some thought that coming to Nashville during this transition would limit enthusiasm, but there were no signs of shame. Fans came in wearing construction hats to show support for the future of this program. The construction was a badge of honor, and the Commodore faithful were ready to “anchor down.”

After a 90-minute lightning delay, Vandy came out fast with a few quick scores that gave them the lead. These touchdown triumphs were highlighted by Jayden McGowden’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – a lead they would never relinquish. Hawai’i made it interesting in the fourth quarter closing the gap to seven. But, a De’Rickey Wright interception shut down their comeback campaign solidifying a final score of 35-28.

Hawai’i played with much heart as their state had recently undergone tragic circumstances after a fire swept over the island of Maui with many lives lost. In true aloha spirit, Vanderbilt announced that a portion of the ticket sales would be donated to the Maui Strong Fund to assist with recovery efforts.

Both Vandy and Hawai’i appear to have bright futures. Both are undaunted by the challenges that lie ahead. Both fanbases showcased pride for their teams. It was truly a pivot point toward greater things.

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