On offense the struggles started with the quarterback position. Chris Nickson, who needed a solid performance coming off his struggles against Eastern Michigan, was off the mark with his passes early and often. He ended the first half 5 of 16 for just 38 yards. Coach Bobby Johnson decided to make the switch to Mackenzie Adams to begin the second half. Adams completed four of nine passing attempts for 24 yards. He led the Commodores on their only scoring drive of the game that covered 91 yards on 15 plays.
The running game was never really a factor on Saturday because the Commodores spent so much time playing from behind. When the Commodores were given the opportunity to run the ball, they were fairly successful. Jared Hawkins and Cassen Jackson-Garrison carried the ball a combined 19 times for 93 yards. The Commodores wanted to establish the run and control the clock against Auburn. Unfortunately they were not given that opportunity because they fell behind early.
The Vanderbilt struggles were not limited to the offensive side of the ball against Auburn. The Tigers scored touchdowns on each of their three drives in the first quarter. They added a fourth touchdown on their second drive of the second quarter. The defense rallied to play a solid second half giving up only seven points, but by that time, the game was already out of hand.
The Vanderbilt game plan against the pass was to pressure Brandon Cox, but they were not able to do that. Cox was sacked only one time and ended the game 14 of 17 for 165 yards and one touchdown. He had all the time he wanted pretty much every time he dropped back to pass. This allowed him to wait for his receivers to come open and complete some easy passes.
The Commodores' defense also struggled defending the run. Pretty much every Auburn running back that touched the ball had success. Ben Tate gained 99 yards on just 9 carries. Brad Lester carried 13 times for 77 yards, and Mario Fanin carried 11 times for 56 yards. Vanderbilt needed to stop the Auburn running backs and get the ball back to their offense. They just were not able to come with any answers for the Auburn rushing attack.
The Commodores just need to put this game behind them and focus on this week's game against Georgia. This loss does not end Vanderbilt's season. A good win against Georgia will make the Commodore players, coaches and fans forget all about this past Saturday's game.