NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Luckily for Zac Stacy, he won't be remembered for his last carry on a record-setting day.
Vanderbilt overcame a fourth-quarter fumble by its senior running back, who rushed for 169 yards and a go-ahead touchdown in a 17-13 victory over Auburn on Saturday.
Stacy had 27 carries and became the school's all-time rushing leader but lost the ball on his final rush, allowing the Tigers (1-6, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) to take over at their 32-yard line with 2:24 left.
Vanderbilt (3-4, 2-3) responded by smothering the SEC's worst-scoring offense. Clint Moseley overshot an open Sammie Coates on fourth-and-13 with 52 seconds remaining.
The Tigers are off to their worst start since losing six of their first seven in 1952 in Shug Jordan's second year as head coach. Auburn is the first team since 1936 to start 1-6 within two years of finishing first in The Associated Press rankings.
The Commodores tied the game at 10 on Carey Spear's 30-yard field goal at the end of the first half. They regained the lead on their first drive of the second half on Stacy's 2-yard touchdown with 7:34 left in the third quarter.
His 27-yard run in the fourth quarter broke Frank Mordica's previous school mark of 2,632 rushing yards from 1976-79. Stacy, who also holds the Commodores' single-season rushing record, now has 2,670 yards.
Vanderbilt survived despite overambitious play-calling.
The Commodores gambled on fourth down five times, converting two that led to their first score. But they also botched a fake punt and halfback pass — both involving Stacy.
They benefited from rolling the dice twice on their opening drive, converting two short fourth downs. Three plays after Wesley Tate moved the chains on fourth-and-2, the Vanderbilt tailback took a direct snap and burst 7 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 6:35 left in the opening quarter. The score capped the Commodores' longest drive of the season — a 16-play, 75-yard march that lasted 8:25.
Auburn's offense sputtered on its first two drives with just one first down and three negative yardage plays. But Vanderbilt offered the Tigers a gift on fourth-and-9 at its own 43 early in the second quarter. Tate took a direct snap and misfired on an option pitch to Stacy, who lined up as the punter.
Auburn's Ashton Richardson recovered the fumble at the 36. Eight plays later, Cody Parkey kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
The Tigers capitalized on another short field. Vanderbilt gambled again on fourth-and-inches at the Auburn 48 and turned the ball over on downs when Stacy lost a yard.
With plenty of protection for the first time, Moseley connected with Emory Blake twice for 35 yards to put the Tigers in the red zone. Tre Mason gave Auburn a 10-7 lead on a 2-yard run with 1:21 to go in the half.
Vanderbilt answered with an impressive two-minute drill. The Commodores marched 65 yards in 11 plays to set up Spear's game-tying kick.
Auburn failed to sustain drives by converting 2 of 15 third downs. Moseley was sacked five times and had just 98 yards on 14-of-20 passing.
Still, the Tigers trailed just 17-13 after Parkey's 39-yard field goal with 9:55 left.
On Vanderbilt's ensuing drive, instead of attempting a long field goal on fourth-and-3 at Auburn's 31, coach James Franklin gambled again.
He put the ball in Stacy's hands — to throw. The halfback pass was squashed as Stacy was sacked. Auburn, however, stalled once again and was forced to punt. The Tigers have gone eight straight games without a touchdown in the fourth quarter.