Know Your Opponent: Vanderbilt

Mike Organ is a veteran staffer for The Tennessean in Nashville. He's covering Vanderbilt football this season and gives us a little more insight to the Commodores as game two for Ole Miss and Vanderbilt is upon us.

Spirit: Vanderbilt lost at home to Temple, which was a bit of a surprise. But by a 37-7 margin? How are the Commodores handling things this week in preparation for Ole Miss?

Organ: Practices are closed, so there is limited access. But (Coach Derek) Mason has tried to put a happy face on it. He and his staff have taken the blame for not having their team prepared. They’ve tried to avoid the weather and the circumstances of starting at 9:53 p.m. and getting over at 1:13 a.m., because the other team had to face that, too. But I will say they’ve been less than convincing. It was about as bad a game as you could play. They won’t make seven turnovers again, you wouldn’t think.

Spirit: So how did things unravel for the Commodores last week in that lopsided loss?

Organ: I thought the pulling of the quarterbacks after saying they were going to let the starter, Patton Robinette, go in and not feel like he needed to worry about not making mistakes. But they pulled him in the second quarter. I think that’s what put them on the slippery slope. Then Stephen Rivers comes in and they let him play through the third quarter and they pulled him. Then they brought in a freshman and two out of his three passes were interceptions. Then they went back to Rivers. I just thought they pushed the panic button on offense.

Spirit: What about the defense? There were seven Vandy turnovers. But allowing 37 points to Temple at home?

Organ: I don’t think it was a fair assessment of the defense. They started with a short field six of the seven times. Their backs were up against the wall the whole night. However I will say they didn’t get a sack on this team, which is a little bit disturbing. But they held them to 3 of 17 on third down conversions, which was solid.

Spirit: What are supposedly the team’s strengths and weaknesses?

Organ: I think their running game is a strength. They played last week without the returning leading rusher, Jerron Seymour, who was out with an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the game. Ralph Webb, a redshirt freshman, in his first game ran for 70 yards on 14 carries, ran hard and with good determination. Seymour will be back this week. So what was a strength last week should be even more of a strength this week. The passing game was an obvious weakness. Not only was the quarterback play horrendous, they don’t seem to have any playmakers outside the running back position. They lack a Jordan Matthews that they had last year and some of the other explosive receivers they’ve had in the past. So that’s a glaring weakness. They looked pretty good on defense when it was an even playing field. They did OK. On special teams, the punter was the star of the night. He backed Temple up a couple of times deep.

Spirit: Vandy has had quite a bit of football success in recent seasons. Do you expect them to bounce back, get things righted, and perhaps play in another bowl game this season?

Organ: They did have great success the last three years, phenomenal success by Vanderbilt terms. The jury is definitely still out. They’ve changed the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They’ve changed the offense to a West Coast. The coaching staffs couldn’t be more different. James Franklin was out front, boisterous, the face of the program. Derek Mason is very reserved, stays in the back. So we’ll have to find out more.

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