On Saturday (6:30 P.M., CSS), the Missouri Tigers (4-0) open SEC play on the road at Vanderbilt (3-2). Missouri comes in off of a 41-19 home win over Arkansas State, while the Commodores are coming off of 52-24 home win over UAB.
A year ago, Vanderbilt scored 10 fourth-quarter points to claim their first SEC road win in two years with a 19-14 victory at Missouri. The Commodores are an impressive 10-2 in their last 12 games dating back to mid-season a year ago. The last time Vanderbilt enjoyed a 10-2 record over a 12-game stretch came in 1955-56.
Now in his third season at Vanderbilt, Head Coach James Franklin’s 15 wins in his first two seasons are the most wins in the first two seasons by a Commodores head coach in over a century.
“Coach Franklin’s done a great job with that program,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. “Really, he’s a heck of a football coach. They’re a real disciplined defensive football team. They had Ole Miss, and they had a chance to win that game. In fact, they were winning it with like a minute-and-half left, two minutes left, in that game. Ole Miss is a very good football team. They came back in the South Carolina game and had a chance to win that. So, they are really doing well. They’ve got a good football team. I’m very impressed with him. On offense, their quarterback is very talented. He’s very mobile. He runs around and makes plays. You know, he extends the play and does some great things there. And obviously, they’ve got one of the best wide receivers in the country. You know, it will be a great challenge for us. But, we’re excited about getting (there) and competing. This is game one.”
Vanderbilt utilizes a multiple offense, including spread formations, as well as other offensive formations and personnel packages. They will also run their running backs out of a wildcat formation. They typically utilize a lot of pre-snap shifts and motion. Vanderbilt is averaging 34.8 points /game and 416.4 yards/game. They’re pretty well-balanced between the run and the pass. The Commodores have converted on 44% of their third-down opportunities, and they have scored touchdowns on 75% of their red-zone opportunities.
Against UAB, Vanderbilt had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher, and two 100-yard receivers for the first time in program history.
A fifth-year senior, 6’1” 215-pound QB Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 334 yards against UAB. On the season, the Wyoming transfer is 88-136-5 (65%) for 1223 yards and 8 TDs through the air (152.30 passer efficiency rating). He’s also the Commodores’ fourth-leading rusher, with 35 carries for 73 yards and 4 TDs.
Another fifth-year senior, 6’1” 224-pound Wesley Tate shares the starting running back position with 5’7” 200-pound sophomore Jerron Seymour. It was Seymour who ran for 107 yards against UAB. On the season, Seymour has 47 carries for 286 yards (6.1 yards/carry) and 6 TDs. He also has 6 receptions for 59 yards. Tate has 55 carries for 244 yards (4.4 yards/carry) and 3 TDs. He also has 6 receptions for 76 yards and 1 TD. Tate and Seymour complement each other well, as Tate is more of the power runner, while Seymour is more elusive, and more dangerous in space. The Commodores have a third running back who has seen action in 5’8’ 185-pound sophomore, Brian Kimbrow. On the season, he has 22 carries for 101 yards and 1 TD.
Frequently, the Commodores line up with a fullback in the backfield. Their starting fullback, 6’3” 245-pound senior Fitz Lassing has 3 receptions on the season, for 18 yards and 1 TD, but he has yet to carry the football from the line of scrimmage. He’s in there to block.
The Commodores best player is 6’3” 206-pound senior WR Jordan Mathews, who had 115 receiving yards against UAB. He was joined by 5’11” 192-pound senior WR Jonathan Krause, who had 108 receiving yards against UAB. Through five games, Krause has 19 receptions for 349 yards (18.4 yards/reception) and 1 TD. He’s also Vanderbilt’s primary punt returner, averaging 3.8 yards/punt return. The emerging Krause lends a valuable complement on the other side of the field to the All-American Matthews.
“The emergence of Jonathan Krause, I think has been really, really big for us,” explained Coach Franklin. “Having two guys that you have to go into the game being concerned about on either side (of the field), I think helps us.”
On the season, Matthews leads the SEC with 40 receptions (8 receptions/game). His 586 receiving yards and 4 TD receptions are also among the league leaders. The Commodores move Matthews around to try to get him the football throughout the game.
Earlier this week, Coach Franklin was asked about Matthews’ extraordinary ability to catch the football in traffic?
“Typically that trait of going and getting the ball when it’s in the air, you can work on that, but that is something you typically have or you don’t,” said Coach Franklin, speaking of Jordan Matthews. “And, he’s had that. You know, he’s got great body control. He’s got great ball skills and he’s just really aggressive. He believes when the ball is in the air, it’s his, and nobody else is coming down with it. He practices that way, and he plays that way.”
The Commodores’ third-leading receiver is the very talented 6’1” 175-pound true freshman Jordan Cunningham, one of three true freshmen playing for Vandy this season. They’ve been working him in, and on the season, he has 9 receptions for 79 yards (8.8 yards/reception). The Commodores starting tight end, 6’5” 255-pound sophomore Steven Scheu, has 5 receptions for 62 yards (12.4 yards/reception) and 1 TD.
So, the Commodores running back position, with Seymour and Tate, is actually their third-leading receiver (12 receptions combined) behind Matthews and Krause. Look for the Commodores to throw to their backs with frequency against Missouri.
Vanderbilt is very athletic up front, where they average 6’4” and 301 pounds along their starting offensive line. The left tackle, 6’5” 295-pound fifth-year senior Wesley Johnson, is making his 44th career start, but the Commodores are otherwise not as experienced up front, especially on the right side.
On the other side of the football, Vanderbilt plays a base 4-3 defense. Typically, the Commodores are in a cover-two look, similar to Missouri’s base defense. Vanderbilt plays a lot of soft coverages. As Coach Pinkel pointed out, the Commodores are very disciplined. And, they rely heavily on the blitz to get pressure on the quarterback.
Vanderbilt is holding opponents to 21.6 points/game, and 363.4 yards/game. On the season, Vanderbilt’s collective opponents have converted 42% of their third down opportunities and have scored touchdowns on 64% of their red-zone opportunities.
The two leading tacklers for the Commodores are their starting safeties, 6’1” 205-pound senior Kenny Ladler (35 total tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 INT), and 5’10” 202-pound senior Javon Marshall (33 total tackles, 2 TFLs).
A talented young linebacker, 6’2” 228-pound sophomore Darreon Herring, may be Vanderbilt’s best defender. He has 30 total tackles on the season, including 1 TFL, and 1 sack, to go along with 1QB hurry, 1 INT, and 4 PBUs.
Another productive linebacker patrols the middle, in 6’2’ 230-pound sophomore LB Jake Sealand, who has 23 total tackles on the season.
The Commodore’s top pass defender is 6’0” 185-pound senior corner Andre Hall, who has 22 total tackles on the season, including 1.5 TFLs, to go along with a team-leading 7 PBUs.
Up front, the Commodores most productive players this season have been 6’3’ 252-pound junior DE Kyle Woestmann (20 total tackles, 3 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 2 QBHs), his back-up, 6’4” 265-pound sophomore DE Caleb Azibuke (16 total tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), and 6’4” 305-pound RSF DT Adam Butler (15 total tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 fumble recovery).
“They do a good job on defense,” said Missouri Offensive Coordinator, Josh Henson, talking about Vanderbilt. “From a philosophical standpoint, they’re tough to prepare for. They do a lot. They change during the game. And, they change in situations. They’re tough to put your finger on……………………………….. They’re not afraid to blitz you. They’re not afraid to blitz you. They’re a good defense. They play hard. You know, you can watch their kids. Their kids play very hard. They’re very tough. They’re very disciplined. They’re in the right places all the time. Very rarely do you see a guy out of position or kind of wondering what to do. So, they’re very well coached.”
“This is the best defense that we’ve played to this point,” continued Coach Henson. “Not to take anything away from the other teams we’ve played, but just watching these guys on film, I think that they are. Again, I think they’re well coached. I think they’re very disciplined. I think they play hard. You know, I think it’ll be a great challenge.”
(NCAA Ranking in Parentheses)
MIZZOU (4-0)____ CATEGORY____ VANDERBILT (3-2)
549.0 (8)_________ Total Offense_______ 416.4 (58)
262.3 (16)_______ Rushing Offense_____ 157.6 (76)
286.8 (29)_______ Passing Offense______ 258.8 (43)
150.73 (30)____ Team Pass Efficiency____150.76 (29)
45.5 (8)_________ Scoring Offense______ 34.8 (T-43)
396.0 (64)_______ Total Defense________ 363.4 (44)
115.8 (26)_______Rushing Defense_____ _153.2 (60)
280.3 (101)____Passing Yds. Allowed____ 210.2 (48)
116.09 (39)___Pass Efficiency Defense___ 125.93 (64)
21.0 (T-41)______Scoring Defense_______ 21.6 (45)
1.0 (T-22)______ Turnover Margin______ -0.2 (T-79)
0.574 (6)______ 3rd Down Conv. Pct._____ 0.435 (50)
0.667 (T-21)___ 4th Down Conv. Pct._____0.857 (T-2)
0.403 (73)___ 3rd Down Conv. Pct. Def. ___ 0.421 (84)
0.826 (T-64)_____Red Zone Offense_____0.833 (T-60)
0.857 (78)______Red Zone Defense____ 1.000 (T-116)
38.71 (40)________ Net Punting_________ 43.00 (7)
4.70 (96)_________Punt Returns________ 3.86 (105)
21.38 (T-64)_____Kickoff Returns_______ 20.83 (74)
112 (T-16)_____First Downs Offense_____ 100 (T-35)
78 (46)________First Downs Defense_____ 99 (T-91)
3.50 (T-9)_____Fewest Penalties / Gm. ____4.20 (18)
31:07 (44)_____Time of Possession_______28:54 (69)