Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Wake Forest

Vanderbilt thrashed Wake Forest 41-6 on Saturday to become bowl eligible. analyzes every element of the Commodore's performance and assigns a grade to each area.



Wake Forest

Vanderbilt didn't pile up 300 yards passing but its passing game was very effective. Jordan Rodgers was 7 for 15 for a touchdown and no interceptions. In the second half he had a beautiful 73-yard pass to Brandon Barden. A wide open Barden caught a short pass from Rodgers near the sideline and then took off running before leaping over a Wake defender and then stiff arming another to make it to the end zone. That had to be one of the most spectacular plays in Vanderbilt football history. Larry Smith got in on the action too. He came in as a wide receiver in the third quarter and had Rodgers flip a lateral pass back to him. Smith them threw a 45-yard bomb to Jordan Matthews to give Vandy a seemingly insurmountable 34-7 lead. It was good to see Larry get that TD pass. Vanderbilt's blockers did not give up a sack during the game.
It was another outstanding rushing performance by Vanderbilt. Zac Stacy piled up 184 yards rushing and scored 3 touchdowns (1, 20, and 40 yards). On the 40 and 20 yarder Stacy bulled through opposing defenders to get to the end zone. Zac set the single season rushing record on the 40-yard run and now has 1,136 yard for 13 touchdowns in 2011. Jordan Rodgers had another great running game as well, picking up 90 yards on 16 rushes. Vanderbilt's offensive line continues to open holes for Stacy and Jordan. Kyle Fischer was named the SEC's co-offensive lineman of the week for his performance at Wake.
The Commodores limited Wake Forest's star quarterback Tanner Price to just 157 yards passing on 34 attempts. Other than Wake's scoring drive that spanned into the early second quarter, the Demon Deacons weren't able to garner much through the air. Walker May picked up the only sack of the game for Vandy but it seemed like Price was running for his life most of the game. Trey Wilson and Sean Richardson each had two pass breakups. WR Chris Givens finished with four catches for 69 yards for Wake. His 28-yard catch was the Deacon's longest gain of the game. Vandy did a good job of keeping Givens, who will likely play in the NFL someday, under control.
Wake Forest averaged only about 116 yards rushing offense per game before playing Vanderbilt. The Commodores limited Wake to 146 rushing yards so it was a decent performance by the 'Dores stopping the Deacons running attack. The Commodores were probably a lot more concerned about stopping the vaunted Wake passing attack. Sean Richardson, Archie Barnes and Casey Hayward all had six tackles. Chris Marve, who will set the Vanderbilt career record for starts in the Commodores' bowl game, had five tackles. Karl Butler also had six.
It seemed like old times as Vanderbilt's Ryan Fowler connected on two field goals (33 and 30 yards) to put his team up 6-0 in the first quarter. The two field goals seemed to take some pressure off the team as Vanderbilt would score three touchdowns in the second quarter. Fowler has now made 27 of 40 field goals for his career. Richard Kent averaged 46.5 yards per punt and placed 3 of 4 of his punts inside the Deacon 20-yard line. He boomed one 62 yards. Steven Clarke returned one kickoff 33 yards. Wake averaged 20 yards per kickoff return including one that went 35 yards.
This team was ripe for a letdown after the awful loss at Tennessee. How many times have we seen a Vanderbilt team with five losses at the end of the season not get it done? This team got it done and the credit lies with both the coaches and players. Franklin had the team ready mentally to take care of business. The game plan was excellent. There were likely several trick plays that weren't even used because of the scoring margin. The 73-yard pass to Barden was a combination of excellent coaching and super human effort. Larry Smith's touchdown pass was a combination of a coach who cares about his players and a player who still has the ability to help his team.
A Vanderbilt bowl in 2011? Yes, I thought there was an outside chance of one. I optimistically predicted a 5-7 season in August. It's refreshing to see Vandy back in a bowl just three years after playing in a bowl. And to think that VU actually has players who have experience playing in bowl games. Opposing recruiters can no longer tell prospects, "You'll never experience a bowl game at Vandy." What really gets you to thinking is when you consider the close losses Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida; had a few plays went the right way Vanderbilt would be preparing to play in its first ever SEC Championship game on Saturday. For now we'll just have to settle for a regular ole bowl game! Wake Forest has been a thorn in Vanderbilt's side for the past few years. This stomping of the Demon Deacons signifies a new era in Vanderbilt football.

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