Coming into Vanderbilt’s first football game against Texas A&M in school history, wide receiver Jordan Matthews was just 14 yards shy of breaking the SEC record for career receiving yards.
Several quarterbacks have contributed to Matthews’ impressive stats over the years, but this season it quickly became clear that redshirt senior Austyn Carta-Samuels had chemistry with the star receiver. In the season opener against Ole Miss, the two connected 10 times for a total of 178 yards, and when Carta-Samuels retired to the sidelines with an injury during the eventual upset of No. 15 Georgia, Matthews was averaging 118 yards per game.
Despite being on the cusp of history and having momentum on their side, the Commodores entered College Station with their veteran quarterback wearing a headset and polo on the sidelines. Redshirt freshman Patton Robinette was given the unenviable task of trying to match Johnny Manziel point-for-point.
The Heisman Award winner, nursing a sore shoulder in practice, torched the Commodores in the first quarter. The visitors were plagued by yet another slow start, but in the second quarter, Robinette found Matthews, and the wheels began turning.
Two plays — that’s all it took for Matthews to cement himself in SEC history.
With 6 1/2 minutes remaining the first half, the Commodores were facing third-and-9 from the Aggies’ 43-yard line.
As Robinette stepped back to receive the snap, Matthews lined up on the right with wideout Jonathan Krause on the outside. At the start of the play, Robinette stepped back. Krause darted down the right sideline, clearing some space for Matthews, who started toward the middle. Robinette cut to the inside of Aggie linebacker Nate Askew, faked a handoff to running back Brian Kimbrow and hurled the ball downfield. Free from his defender, Matthews turned to catch the pass just as defensive back Howard Matthews made contact.
The Aggie defender brought Matthews down at the 30-yard line, good for a 13-yard gain. As the Commodores moved the chains, the senior moved into first place in the SEC for career receiving yards, tying Terrence Edwards, who played at Georgia from 1999 to 2002. Matthews’ catch — his 59th of the season — was far from flashy, but it gave the offense a much-needed spark. In 2002, Edwards’ 59th catch was the last of his college career.
On the next play, Robinette found Krause in the end zone for Vanderbilt’s first touchdown of the game. Texas A&M: 28 Vanderbilt: 10.
Safety Kenny Ladler intercepted Johnny Manziel’s pass at Vanderbilt’s 41-yard line at the end of the second quarter. After cornerback Andre Hal deflected the pass, Ladler returned it to the Aggie 27, giving great field position to Robinette and company.
On the first play of the drive, Matthews lined up near the left sideline. Robinette received the snap, hesitated and faked a pass to the left, where both Matthews and Krause were looking for pockets. More satisfied with his second look, Robinette fired it to the left. Finding himself free for a fraction of a second, Matthews caught the ball on the first-down line and cut towards the middle of the field. He was dragged down at the 10 after gaining 17 yards on the play. Running back Jerron Seymour completed the drive, finding the end zone on his third carry. Vanderbilt entered the locker room with 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and the newly crowned SEC record holder. Texas A&M: 28 Vanderbilt: 17.
Unfortunately for the Commodores, momentum swung back in the Aggies’ favor. In the opening seconds of the second half, Robinette threw a pick-6. Manziel then kicked it into high gear, leading his team to a 56-24 victory.
Extending his career total to 3,172 passing yards, only Matthews left College Station with something to celebrate.
With 216 career receptions, he rests only 20 catches short of matching an SEC record held by Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett. From 2005 to 2007, the Commodore-turned-Chicago Bear posted 2,852 receiving yards during his college career. If Matthews remains at his current pace, he will finish with nearly 800 more yards than Vanderbilt’s greatest wide receiver.
Inside the helmet of Vanderbilt All-American wide receiver Jordan Matthews on the first day of 2013 preseason camp.