Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Connecticut

Vanderbilt rallied past UConn, 24-21, on Saturday night. analyzes every element of the Commodore's performance and assigns a grade to each area.




In the first quarter starting quarterback Larry Smith (12-for-24, 140 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int.) had a fine 42-yard touchdown pass to Chris Boyd and about 90 yards passing for the opening quarter. After the first quarter it was vintage Smith. Smith's indecisiveness and taking all day to throw didn't help a struggling offensive line. Smith was sacked a whopping seven times on the night. The two interceptions Smith gave up snuffed out promising drives. Jordan Rodgers made a brief appearance but wasn't much better.
The Commodores struggled running the ball for most of the night gaining only 118 yards in 32 attempts. Jerron Seymour and Zac Stacy each had key runs that were vital in the Commodores picking up win No. 2. Seymour had a fine 40-yard scoring run down the right sideline in the first quarter to give Vandy a 14-3 lead. Late in the fourth quarter Stacy made a critical 48-yard scamper that set Vanderbilt up for the winning field goal. Other than those two runs there wasn't much else to be excited about.
Vandy's secondary and overall defense was as advertised on Saturday night. After shaking first series by the defense the team got down to business. Vanderbilt secondary made huge plays to sway the game into the Vanderbilt win column. Five Commodore sacks including two by defensive end Tim Fugger kept the Huskie quarterbacks on the run. Interceptions by Kenny Ladler, Javon Marshall and Casey Hayward gave the offense extra opportunities. Hayward pick, in particular, was vital to the winning Commodore cause. The senior returned his interception 50 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 21. In all Vanderbilt limited UConn to just 104 yards passing offense on 29 attempts. That's 3.6 yards per attempts and 9.5 yards per completion (11).
It didn't look good on UConn's first drive when the Huskies marched 72 yards on 12 plays, mostly running plays, for a field goal but the Commodores regrouped. UConn's Lyle McCombs ran for an impressive 118 yards on 27 carries for the Huskies but he never found the end zone. Vanderbilt's Chris Marve finished with seven tackles and fellow linebacker Chase Garnham had five. The Huskies tallied only 89 yards total rushing yards when sacks figured in.
Richard Kent had some good punts, averaging over 40 yards per boot. One third quarter punt by Kent went 67 yards and turned the field position around. Kent also saved the day on Carey Spear's winning 31-yard field goal when he properly handled a high snap. However, the worst special teams play so far this season came when UConn swarmed over the Vandy line to block a Kent punt which was returned for a Huskie touchdown. Without that play the special teams would have been looking at an 'A' or 'B' grade but when the unit gives up a touchdown that's not going to happen.
James Franklin has spoken about helping the team learn how to overcome adversity and it seems to be working. Maybe Franklin, who has a degree in Psychology, can give fans a few counseling sessions on handling adversity as well. After Yaw Smallwood returned Larry Smith's fumble 64-yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to take a 21-14 lead, who would have thought this team would come back and win in regulation? After the fumble return, Franklin said he heard a fan yell, "Same Ole Vandy." I bet he heard 10,000 more yelling that or at least thinking it. The staff's philosophy of going for big plays instead of being overly conservative seems to be paying dividends.
An exciting win over the defending Big East Champions. After the past two miserable seasons it's refreshing to see Vanderbilt at 2-0 with a very good possibility of improving to 3-0 this week against Ole Miss. If the team can continue to improve on its weaknesses anything can happen.

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