NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Earl Bennett caught three touchdown passes to lead Vanderbilt to a season-opening 41-17 victory over Richmond on Saturday night.
The All-Southeastern Conference wide receiver, who began the season 48 catches away from becoming the league's all-time career leader, finished with 13 receptions for a school-record 223 yards.
Vanderbilt won its season-opening game at home for the first time since 1997 and scored its most points in an opener since 1950.
Bennett helped the Commodores blow the game open on the first series of the second half, catching a 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Nickson to hand Vanderbilt a 28-10 lead.
Bennett was also a special-teams standout, returning punts for 36 and 25 yards.
Bennett caught two touchdown passes in the first half. The second came from the 1-yard line with 12 seconds remaining and gave the Commodores a 21-10 lead.
He also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nickson with 5:31 left in the second quarter, pushing Vanderbilt's lead to 14-3.
In the first half, Bennett caught eight passes for 78 yards. His three touchdowns gave him 18 for his career, moving him into a tie for third place all-time at Vanderbilt.
Richmond went ahead 3-0 with 6:31 remaining in the first half on a 22-year field goal by Andrew Howard.
Vanderbilt answered when tailback Jeff Jennings scored on a 4-yard run, making it 7-3. The short drive was set up by a 63-year kickoff return by D.J. Moore.
Trailing 31-10 in the third quarter, the Spiders stayed close when Justin Rogers returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 31-17.
The Commodores responded when Nickson connected with tailback Jeff Jennings for a 3-yard touchdown pass, pushing the score to 38-17.
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