Passing Offense: A-
Vanderbilt went on an 11-play, 85-yard drive capped off with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Tate who quarterback Jordan Rodgers found wide open on a wheel route. Early in the second quarter, Rodgers was hit by Deacon linebacker Joey Ehrmann resulting in an ill-timed turnover in the red zone. Jordan Matthews had a career high 10 catches for 144 yards in the first half. Rodgers and Matthews would have their way with the Wake Forest secondary who chose to play soft coverage; Rodgers responded by torching them underneath. The senior quarterback completed 17 for 23 passes for 229 yards and two scores. Matthews caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers in traffic with four Wake Forest defenders to put the 'Dores up 21-7. With 13 seconds left in the first half, Rodgers was intercepted by cornerback Chibuikem Okor but the Vandy defense responded with an interception on the next play.
Rushing Offense: B
On a sweep to the short side of the field, a patient Wesley Tate cut straight up the field for a 15-yard touchdown run. Out of the wildcat formation, Zac Stacy took it four yards for a score to give Vandy a 28-7 lead. The 28 first half points were the most by the 'Dores this season.
Stacy capped off the night with a 90-yard touchdown run; he ran between the tackles and got excellent blocks on the linebackers. It also broke Stacy's own record for the longest rushing touchdown in school history.
True freshman Brian Kimbrow had a fumble in the fourth quarter recovered by cornerback Chibuikem Okoro four yards for a Demon Deacon touchdown. Stacy finished the night with 21 carries for 180 yards rushing and two scores. Tate added two rushes for 27 yards rushing and a score.
Passing Defense: B
The Demon Deacons were able to convert a third-and-12 on their opening drive when junior quarterback Tanner Price found Michael Campanaro over the middle for a 19-yard gain. Senior Archibald Barnes nabbed his first interception of the season on a Hail Mary pass from Price at the end of the first half. Campanaro finished with eight catches for 98 yards receiving. The redshirt junior receiver finished the regular season averaging 7.9 receptions per season, only trailing Torry Holt who averaged 8 catches per game in 1998 at N.C. State.
Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price was held to completing 17 for 36 pass attempts for 182 yards passing. Safeties Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall led the team with at 8 and 7 tackles each.
Rushing Defense: B
It looked like it might be a barn burner when Wake Forest took its first possession 16 plays and 71 yards to score. The Commodores were able to stop the Deacs' three times after first-and-goal from the 2-yard line but, according to the replay officials, senior fullback Tommy Bohanon was able to push his way in just enough for a score.
The Commodores kept the Demon Deacons' rushing attack in check for most of the game. Redshirt freshman Deandre Martin led the Deacs' with 24 carries for 72 yards rushing and a touchdown. Wake Forest finished the day with 124 yards and two rushing scores.
Senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr led the front seven with 6 tackles, including a team-high 3 for a loss. Outside linebacker Karl Butler added a sack for a loss of 8 yards and a pass break up. Defensive end Walker May tallied 6 tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. At the other end spot, Johnell Thomas recorded his first sack of the season and added 5 tackles.
Special Teams: A
Vanderbilt eased off the throttle on offense in the second half but the special teams units still performed exceptionally well. Redshirt freshman safety Andrew Williamson blocked a punt on the Deacs' opening second half drive. Sophomore defensive back Casey Hughes recovered the blocked punt in the end zone to put Vandy up 35-7. Carey Spear hit a career-high 52-yard field goal in the third quarter; Spear had another field goal from 50 yards later in the third.
Jonathan Krause started the fourth quarter off with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown. Krause broke away from Wake Forest tacklers and cut back up the field before stiff arming inside linebacker Mike Olson on his second punt return for a score of the year.
The Commodores went for it on fourth down twice in the opening drive and were successful on both attempts. Vanderbilt was balanced on offense and converted 4 for 7 third down attempts in the first half. Head coach James Franklin has done a phenomenal job as the season went on. Prior to Franklin's arrival, the 'Dores were 3-32 in November games; Vanderbilt is now 6-2 in November games in Franklin's first two seasons. With the bowl game against the yet to be named opponent next up for Vanderbilt, Franklin was able to talk about his thoughts on returning to a bowl in his first two seasons.
"I do think when you can go to two bowl games in your first two years," Franklin said. "First time ever in school history that we've gone to consecutive bowl games. To me, it's also significant that we build on last year. We won six games last year (and) go to a bowl game. This year we've been able to find a way to win eight games."
It's been a record breaking year for the 'Dores who finished with the most regular season wins since 1982.
It was great to see the passing offense take off from the start without needing some time to warm up. Rodgers and Matthews picked on the Wake Forest defense all through the first half. Vanderbilt was dominant on both sides of the ball and set the tone midway through the first half. With the exception of two Deacon drives, the defense performed well and held Wake Forest to 310 total yards of offense.
Wake Forest made it look like it might be close in the first quarter with some questionable officiating calls. The Demon Deacons' attempt at a sixth win game came up short as the Commodores broke their will early in the second half. The Vanderbilt players get a week of rest before finding out whom their next bowl opponent will be.
Vanderbilt Report Card: Wake Forest
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