"We wanted to run the ball today, but we also wanted to have balance in the offense and I was a little concerned we didn't throw it more," Fighting Tigers' coach Nick Saban said. "We had a lot of run-pass checks called and we ended up running the ball probably six or eight times in the first half that could have been passes had they lined up where the pass was there. But we did run the ball effectively, and that was a plus.
"I think the offensive line did a very good job in the game, so we're hopeful we'll continue to make progress there and improve in the passing game."
All total, Randall completed 4-of-6 attempts for 78 yards, and Russell added a 2-of-5 showing for 24 yards.
Saban commented that the strategy utilized against Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4) is one he wanted to use since the outset of the season.
"Marcus Randall kinda proved he
played his best game, one of his best games of the year coming off the bench at
Randall's first completion of the night, LSU's second, proved to be the final snap of a six-play, 81-yard drive the Fighting Tigers (6-2, 3-2) began the second half with. It came one down after Alley Broussard rushed for nine yards on a fourth-and-one to keep the drive alive.
While Randall called his own number eight times for 68 yards, Alley Broussard's nine attempts for 80 yards and Joseph Addai's 14 carries for 77 yards paced an LSU running game that rolled up 273 yards. That averaged out to 6.2 yards per rush.
"Some of the bootlegs their end was getting wide, I guess they were trying to stop us from rolling out," Randall said. "Like some of the third downs they were dropping eight people, so they were dropping back into like I think an eight-man drop, so I mean they were covering all the zones up basically."
Trying to establish the ground game was the intention according to Broussard.
"That was our gameplan, to come in and run the ball more consistent," he said. "That's what we practiced all
week, so we came out and ran the ball."
On just the fifth pass attempt for the Fighting Tigers, Randall hit Craig Davis in the endzone with a throw the receiver had to come back for. It covered 34 yards and came at the 11:35 mark in the third quarter.
Gaudet added the PAT to put the Fighting Tigers ahead 17-7, and more big plays followed to set in motion the fast sinking of the Commodores' ship.
The only other Fighting Tigers to get their hands on the ball through the air were tight end David Jones with one reception for 33 yards and Green, who had a single reception for 11 yards.
Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game on Vanderbilt's next possession with a neck injury, and Green made things worse for the Commodores by returning a punt 65 yards for his first special teams touchdown of the season to make the gulf separating the two teams wider with 7:11 remaining in the third.
"My neck feels a little stiff from that late hit in the third quarter," Cutler said. "It just pressed my neck straight
down and I felt numb for a second."
Cutler's night ended with a 10-of-20 showing for 111 yards, and his replacement, Steven Bright, would complete 7-of-9 attempts for 75 yards.
Norval McKenzie's 56 yards on nine carries led the Commodores' running attack.
LSU's big plays in the second half helped bring about the end of the Commodores' hopes after Vanderbilt had seemingly gotten back into the game just before the close of the second quarter with an extensive drive.
"I felt like we had some opportunities to stay in the game, and the put return was a huge play for them," Commodores' head coach Bobby Johnson said. "It sort of demoralized us, and the long pass too. We were in good shape but we didn't make the plays. Those are opportunities that we need to take advantage of against a very good football team to have a chance to win and we didn't do it."
For Saban, Green's punt return proved to be something LSU hasn't had a lot of this season – a special teams play that positively affected the outcome.
"It was great to see special teams have an impact on the game," Saban said. "I mean it's finally a big play on special teams and we also had a couple of other returns that we were close to breaking. It's our goal to gain a first down and field position every time we punt return."
The Vanderbilt vessel simply splintered apart from there with a lost fumble, a turnover on downs, and three more punts on five drives that accounted for an average of 16 yards per possession.
With Russell at the helm to begin the game, the Fighting Tigers started from their 31 yardline and behind Addai eating up most of the yards managed to score first.
An 11-play, 60-yard drive capped by a 26-yard Ryan Gaudet field goal saw Addai get three carries and rack up 28 yards. LSU actually squandered an opportunity to put up more points when the possession stalled inside the Commodores' 10 yardline.
Setting up Gaudet's kick inadvertently was a reverse from Green to Xavier Carter that ended in a loss on third and goal from the five yardline.
After a couple of penalties forced the Commodores to punt twice, LSU took over on Vanderbilt's 38 yardline. But the Fighting Tigers managed to muster only a three-and-out, and failed to take advantage of excellent field position.
LSU then wasted another opportunity on their ensuing possession, but this time traveled a long way to do so.
Broussard moved the Fighting Tigers from their 11 yardline out to their 43 yardline with a touch of the ball, and without an attempted pass Russell used his running backs and his own legs to get LSU down to the Commores' 13 yardline.
It was there that Chris Jackson was wide left on a 30-yard field goal try, bringing to a closed what had started as a promising drive.
That possession seemed to light a fire in Vanderbilt for awhile, as the Commodores drove down to the Fighting Tigers' 30 yardline before attempting a 47-yard field goal that was blocked by Jessie Daniels.
Randall then took over the quarterback position, but LSU fared little better than they had initially with another three-and-out. A fumbled option pitch by Kwane Doster recovered by Daniels put the Fighting Tigers at Vanderbilt's 21 yardline however.
Following an 11-yard touchdown run by Broussard that was called back because of a holding call, the LSU tailback covered seven yards on an almost identical run after Randall put the Fighting Tigers back in striking distance with a 14-yard scamper.
Gaudet added the PAT, and with 6:12 remaining in the first half LSU held a 10-0 lead.
Vanderbilt would finally respond to the Fighting Tigers' volleys with a drive that lasted 5:04 and all but closed out the first half.
The Commodores sailed 83 yards on 13 plays, and the final play of the possession proved to be a one-yard dive for a touchdown by Cutler with 1:03 showing on the clock.
"Defensively I thought we played pretty well in the game," Saban said. "Gave up a couple third downs on their scoring drive right before the half – five to be exact. That's something that we're usually pretty good at.
"They did something today, they stayed in regular people all the time on third down. So in the first half we didn't have quite as much stuff in sub ready to play against that because the multiple formations are greater, so we made some halftime adjustments and the kids did a great job, the players did a great job of picking it up and did a little bit better job of pressuring the quarterback in the second half."
Four of LSU's five sacks occurred over the final two quarters of play, and by the end of the night the Fighting Tigers' defense had amassed 12 tackles for loss.