Vanderbilt, which started strong with a 45-0 win against Western Carolina, bounced back from two Southeastern Conference losses to get a win on the road at Rice last Saturday 36-17.
The Commodores, who won their hometown Music City Bowl against Boston College last season, are 0-2 in SEC play with a 23-9 loss at LSU and a 15-3 loss at home to Mississippi State.
Veteran Vandy head coach Bobby Johnson said it was good to get back into the win column after the two conference losses.
"We're obviously very pleased to get a win over Rice Saturday," said Johnson, in his eighth season at the Nashville school. "The whole game didn't go exactly like we wanted, but anytime you go on the road and play somebody that has a winning record the last couple of years and is used to winning at home, it felt good to get a win."
The Commodores are a team that was already dealing with some injuries. The game against the Owls was unkind as well.
"The Rice game was pretty costly injury wise," Johnson said. "John Cole (redshirt freshman wide receiver) broke his hand, Sean Richardson (sophomore safety) tore a tendon in his thumb, and T.J. Greenstone (sophomore defensive tackle) is banged up with a sore knee. John and Sean had operations (earlier this week) to repair their injuries, and we'll have to wait and see (on their status). Just like any other team out there right now, we are dealing with injuries, so our depth will be challenged."
Johnson said the Commodore coaching staff is working to shore up a team that's a bit bruised and battered at this point.
"As coaches we will mix and match in places the best we can, and we feel we have done a good job of that already," he said. "Brent Trice (senior linebacker) was playing a couple of different positions the other night as he played safety very well after playing at linebacker most of the year. We played some freshmen in the secondary, and Eddie Foster (freshman defensive back) came up with a big interception that helped turn things around for us. So when players go down with an injury, somebody else has to step up."
Johnson has mentioned he can rarely recall a season with so many early significant personnel setbacks.
"Going back from last spring, either injuries or academics or whatever . . . I think there's 9-10 scholarship players we don't have available right now," Johnson said.
Vanderbilt kicked three field goals in its 19-point win at Rice, and its only points against MSU were via one field goal. Johnson said the offense needs to score more touchdowns if it is to give its team the best chance at winning.
"It was more than just those drives. We had several opportunities to hit open receivers, make more plays and block the right people to keep a drive alive. We were given several short fields to work because of a stop by our defense, so we have learn to execute better on the offensive end, especially when we are playing someone like Ole Miss."
The Commodores are scoring 23 points per game and allowing 14. They're outrushing their opponents 201 yards to 160. They're also ahead in average passing yards 167 to 106.
Vandy's most productive quarter this season has been the fourth when the Commodores have scored 33 total points. It's been the same for the opposition, however, as Vanderbilt has allowed 20 total points in the final period.
Cole was Vandy's leading receiver so far with 12 catches for 119 yards. Johnson said early in the week that Cole is doubtful for this Saturday's 6 p.m. contest against the Rebels.
Freshman running back Warren Norman leads the Commodores on the ground, rushing for 250 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Larry Smith has paced the Commodore offense. He's completed 56 of 115 passes with three interceptions and a touchdown. Senior signal-caller Mackenzi Adams has seen just a bit of playing time thus far.
The series between Vanderbilt and Ole Miss began in 1894. The Rebels lead the series 46-35-2 through 83 meetings, but Vandy led 19-0 before Ole Miss got its first win.
Ole Miss has played only Mississippi State and Louisiana State more times than Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, the Rebels are the Commodores' second oldest opponent. Only Tennessee has played Vandy more times than Ole Miss.
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