Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. Army

The Vanderbilt Commodores hope to end a 3-game losing streak when they host the Army Black Knights on Saturday night. Look inside for an in-depth comparison of the two teams.

Vanderbilt rushing offense
Army rushing defense
Vanderbilt ranks 83rd (127 ypg.) nationally in rushing offense while the Black Knights are 73rd (166 ypg.) in rushing defense. After struggling earlier in the season running the ball Vanderbilt has shown significant improvement the past two games. On Saturday the Commodore accumulated 200 yards rushing on a Georgia defense that had held Tennessee to negative yardage the previous week. Against Alabama Vandy gained 41 yards on the Crimson Tide, more than both Florida and Arkansas. The one big change that may have led to the improved Vandy rushing numbers was the return of sophomore center Logan Stewart to the lineup during the Commodores' bye week before Bama. However, Stewart will be suspended for the first half against Army for an illegal clip he made during the Georgia game. Zac Stacy is Vanderbilt leading rusher, gaining about 64 yards per game. He had 97 against Georgia but only four at Alabama. Army runs the double eagle flex defense which is similar to the Desert Swarm defense from the mid-1990s ran at Arizona. Linebacker Steven Erzinger is the Black Knights top tackler with 64. He also has 7 1/2 tackles for losses. Army averages only about 225 pounds on its defensive line but the Cadets are very quick.
Vanderbilt passing offense
Army passing defense
As bad as Vanderbilt's passing attack has been, the Army passing defense has had everything go wrong. The Black Knights lost several veteran members of their secondary during the offseason and preseason practice. One returning starter was suspended due to an incident at an airport in which video shows he was likely innocent of wrong doing. Another projected starter was injured during preseason drills. The result? Two true freshmen, a sophomore and one experienced player-- junior cornerback Josh Jackson-- start in the secondary that is ranked 116th nationally in pass efficiency defense. Vanderbilt's passing attack is ranked 112th (132 ypg.) and 116th in passing efficiency. Vandy QB Larry Smith has thrown for 481 yards, 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He had a nightmare game in the first half against Georgia and was pulled in favor of Jordan Rodgers. Rodger's completion rate wasn't any better but he moved the offense with his 80 rushing yards and almost led the Commodores to a comeback victory. Jonathan Krause is Vanderbilt's top receiver with 20. Wesley Tate and tailback Zac Stacy each have 11 receptions. Chris Boyd has three touchdown receptions.
Army rushing offense
Vanderbilt rushing defense
While Vanderbilt's rushing defense has been more than solid, the Army running attack has been phenomenal. The Black Knights currently lead the FBS in rushing averaging 361 yards per game. Their field general is veteran quarterback Trent Steelman. Steelman, a local product from Bowling Green, can best be remembered by Vandy fans for his touchdown run against VU in 2009. Steelmen appeared to be tackled near the 5-yard line but suddenly the pile of humanity moved and Steelman barreled into the end zone to the stunned dismay of Vanderbilt defenders. Raymond Maples is a tough, elusive back who has two less season rushing yards than Steelman's 536. Malcolm Brown has 325 yards; fullback Jared Hassin has 287 yards. Vanderbilt's defense has been fairly stingy against the run, allowing only about 110 yards per game (27th in FBS). Middle linebacker Chris Marve leads the Commodores in tackles with 46 on the season. Fellow linebacker Chase Garnham has 42.  
Army passing offense
Vanderbilt passing defense
Army has the opposite skill at passing as it has at running the ball. The Black Knights currently rank dead last in passing garnering just an average of 58 yards through the air per contest. However, over the past two games Steelman has completed 11-of-11 passes for 2 touchdowns. Steelman is 19 for 36 for 329 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on the season. Steelman's top two targets are Jared McFarlin and Davyd Brooks who have a combined 11 reception. Slotback Malcolm Brown has the longest reception of the season at 40 yards. Army is tied for 14th nationally in sacks allowed but that ranking is likely a misrepresentation of the Black Knight offensive line due to the fact they pass so little. That said, Army's O-line has played well this season despite the fact that they are mostly new starters who are frequently facing defensive lines that are much bigger than them. Vanderbilt's passing defense is ranked No. 59 nationally and allows about 220 yards per game. Vandy's secondary was got off to a red hot start in the first four games, picking off 14 passes. However, over the past two games (Georgia and Bama) Vanderbilt has only intercepted one pass. Casey Hayward leads the Vandy secondary. He is ranked No. 2 nationally in interceptions with five. Defensive end Tim Fugger has 20 tackles, 8 tackles for losses and 3 sacks.  
Special Teams
Frequently this area is seen as 'EVEN' unless there is big disparity; in this case there is. Alex Carlton has struggled for the Black Knights through much of the season kicking. He is just 1-of-4 on field goals with his only make coming from 23 yards. He kicked well in 2010 (15 for 22 FGs) but for some reason he's struggled in 2011. He's even missed two extra points. Vandy's Carey Spear has been fairly solid when not trying to rumble with opposing players. He's made 3-of-5 field goals with a long of 33 yards and he's made all 16 of his extra points. Richard Kent had punted well up to last week but he seemed to be lost playing against his home state school. Kent punted poorly and was replaced by Ryan Fowler who was decent, averaging only about 35 yards a punt. Kent had had two that were shanked, each going only about 20 yards. Kent also had a punt blocked. It's uncertain who the punter will be this week but the gut feeling is that it will be Kent. Josh Jackson averages 4.1 yards per punt return for Army while Vandy's Jonathan Krause is picking up about 5.4 yards per return. Army's Scotty Williams averages about 21.4 yards per kickoff returns while Vandy's Andre Hal has got his average up 23.6 yards per return after a 96-yard return against Georgia. Army punt coverage team allows opponents about 9.3 yards per return while Vanderbilt's unit allows only 4.2 yards per return. Army (17.5 ypr.) and Vanderbilt's (18.1 ypr.) kickoff coverage units are about equal.  
This game pits two innovative coaches against each other. James Franklin is 3-3 in his first season at Vanderbilt. Army head coach Rich Ellerson (74-58 career record) is a defensive mastermind. He developed the highly successful Desert Swarm defense at Arizona and has a solid group of assistants.  
The Black Knights have had an extra week to prepare for Vanderbilt. The Commodores are coming off a controversial loss to Georgia. Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart has been barred from participating in the first half of the game.  

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 28, Army 20

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