FOOTBALL: Bad 4th quarters have haunted Vandy

For Vanderbilt to beat Kentucky on Saturday, the Commodores are probably going to have to do something they haven't done in six SEC games this season: score in the fourth quarter.

In fact, the Commodores (2-7, 1-5 SEC) haven't scored in the second half of an SEC game since they defeated Mississippi State 31-13 on Oct. 2. They also failed to score in the fourth quarter of a 37-34 loss to Rutgers.

The sad thing for Vanderbilt is that it led Ole Miss, Rutgers and Florida at halftime and trailed LSU just 10-7 at halftime. Instead of winning any or all of those games, the Commodores are headed for yet another losing season.

"It's just hard to put your finger on it," Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said.

"Sometimes, late in the game, it's a matter of going for a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal. We've had some of them blocked late in the games, and I can't understand that when we kick them fairly well early in the game.

"We basically call the same kind of plays and have the same people in there most of the games. It may be depth, it may be fatigue, I don't know."

NOTES, QUOTES
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Vanderbilt actually leads the SEC in drives that last longer than five minutes, which says a lot for Vandy's patience, especially in the running game, but it also says a lot about the Commodores' lack of big plays. That won't get any easier if QB Jay Cutler isn't at full strength, so the Commodores may need to be able to line up and run the ball without a lot of option.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A veteran defense is allowing 26 points, 193 rushing yards and 412.6 total yards per game. Vandy has played below expectations on this side of the ball, but it should have a good chance to stop Kentucky, which has the nation's 116th-ranked offense, this week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Their record doesn't indicate how good of a football team they really are. They've lost some close games, some games where they had the lead and let it slip away." -- Kentucky coach Rich Brooks on Vanderbilt's 2-7 record.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Vanderbilt at Kentucky, Nov. 13 -- Vanderbilt is only a 1-point favorite, despite appearing to be a better team for most of the season, but it's difficult to pick the Commodores when they've yet to learn how to win a close game in the fourth quarter. They blew their chances earlier this season against Ole Miss and Rutgers, so the time has come for the Commodores to grow up and win a game they're supposed to win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jay Cutler -- Between a head injury two weeks ago and an ankle injury last week, Cutler has been limited, and so has the Vandy offense. Backup Steven Bright is a decent passer, but Cutler brings the combination of passing and running Vandy needs to control and move the ball to score points and protect its defense.

OLB Moses Osemwegie, FS Kelechi Ohanaja and DE Jovan Haye -- Vandy has too much experience on defense to keep getting pushed around. The playmakers on this defense need to create the big plays -- sacks, tackles for losses, interceptions and fumbles -- that turn a close game into a victory.

ROSTER REPORT: The status of injured QB Jay Cutler remains uncertain as he continues to undergo treatment on his sprained right ankle. Cutler, a junior who suffered the injury early in the first quarter against Florida and did not return, still hopes to play this week against Kentucky but will not know for certain until later in the week. ... OG Brian Kovolisky (knee) is expected to return for the Kentucky game.


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