Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Alabama

Alabama defeated Vanderbilt 34-0 on Saturday night in a game that seemed closer than the score indicated. analyzes every element of the Commodores' performance and assigns a grade to each area.




The Commodore quarterbacks were 15 for 24 for 149 yards and two interceptions (both by Jordan Rodgers). Larry Smith was 4 for 6 for 45 yards. He found Brandon Barden for a 31-yard completion in the first quarter in what was Vanderbilt's longest gain of the game. Rodgers came in late in the first quarter after Smith was injured. The California native connected on 11-of-18 passes for 104 yards but had the two costly interceptions. Wesley Tate had a solid 29-yard catch and run. Rodgers fired a bullet across the middle that Jerron Seymour pulled down for a decent gain. Vanderbilt's offensive line seemed improved and allowed no sacks against one of the best defensive lines in college football.
The rushing offense wasn't really any better than South Carolina. Vanderbilt just didn't allow any sacks which, I guess, since the college game deducts those from the running total yardage then it is improvement. Just 41 yards of rushing is not usually a 'C' grade but you have to consider that Vandy was playing a team that had not given up more than 30 yards rushing in the past two games. Jordan Rodgers was the top ground gainer with 23 yards on four carries while he ran for his life in doing a good job of avoiding sacks. He is not as fast as Larry Smith but he has a quickness about him that he uses well. Jonathan Krause was the second leading ground gainer with a paltry nine yards. Vandy tried him on a couple end arounds. One did go for nine yards while the other was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
This is where Vandy lost the game. The one area I gave Vandy the advantage in the head to head turned out to be the back breaker. Tide QB A.J. McCarron was very efficient going 23 for 30 for 237 yards and four touchdowns. Vandy's vaunted secondary didn't come up with one interception and McCarron didn't miss a beat. Had Vanderbilt been able to reduce the number of completions-- and third down conversions-- the Commodores might have made a game of it. The Commodores were probably so concerned with Trent Richardson that they let worrying about him affect their normal routine. Rob Lohr had a great sack along with Walker May so Vandy won the sack battle 2-0.
Vanderbilt held Richardson (107 yards) and Bama to 153 yards rushing which is 77 yards under the Tide's game average entering the contest. Not bad at all. The longest Tide run was a 24 yarder by Richardson. Hats off to the Vandy linebacker corps, Chase Garnham (10 tackles), Archibald Barnes (8) and Chris Marve (8) were all over the field. Linebacking was a big concern before the season but these guys looked excellent against a team that might win it all. Then there are the nine tackles for 31 yards in losses that the VU defense inflicted on the Crimson Tide. Vanderbilt gave up one measly TD on the ground to the Tide, a 1-yard run in the third quarter by Richardson. Was it perfect run defense? No, but we'll sure take it.
This might have been a 'B' grade had Carey Spear made just one of those field goals. It probably is not fair that field goals weigh so heavily in a special teams grade but they do here. The first miss, from 47 yards, was on target but hit the cross bar and bounced behind it. The second, from 38 yards, was wide right. The misses deflated the team and made it seem that the Tide was much more dominant in the game than they were. Spear will recover from this. Richard Kent was again solid punting averaging 41 yards with a long of 54. He placed three of his five punts inside the Bama 20. Punt coverage was excellent. Marquiz Maze, who has burned some teams this season, netted only 2 yards on three punt returns. Andre Hal had a 33-yard kickoff return.
It's obvious that this staff was hard at work during the off week. The offensive line shakeup worked as the unit blocked much better. The game plan was solid and gave the team a chance. Vanderbilt looked well coached in every phase of the game. When these coaches get more talent on the team there is no limit to what the program can do.
Although VU didn't score a point, both the offense and defense competed and with a break or two this game could have been much closer. For instance, if the obvious helmet to helmet or face kicking would have been called it might have made things turn out better. Alabama also got a couple of touchdown receptions by literally millimeters in bounds. Then when you consider Spear's first miss, again by millimeters. It is a game of inches.

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