Passing Offense: B
Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers started things off well in The Opening drive that went 11 plays and 71 yards, ending with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews on fourth-and-5.
Rodgers did an excellent job avoiding a sack and then found freshman tight end Steven Scheu for a 6-yard completion. Later in the drive, sophomore receiver Chris Boyd worked his way to the sideline for an 11-yard reception. Three plays later Boyd found a seam in the Wildcat coverage and Rodgers found him for a 30-yard score that put the 'Dores up 21-0.
Rodgers had some trouble in the second quarter when he fumbled just inside Kentucky territory to give the Wildcats the ball. After the defense forced a turnover on downs, Rodgers was intercepted by Kentucky safety Ashely Lowery on the 'Dores next offensive snap.
Rodgers finished the day completing 18 for 29 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns; the senior quarterback also passed the 3,000 career passing yards marker with his 34-yard touchdown pass to Matthews on the opening drive. Boyd led the team with 6 receptions for 81 yards and a score. Matthews followed closely behind with 5 catches for 75 yards with a touchdown.
Rushing Offense: A
In Vandy's second drive Wesley Tate ran extremely well with 30 yards on 6 carries ending in a 3-yard touchdown run. Tate also caught a pass out of the backfield for 9 yards on the 59-yard scoring drive. The redshirt junior looked impressive with 44 yards rushing and a score while averaging 4 yards per carry.
After the Wildcat's second catchers interference penalty, Rodgers ran for six yards out of bounds and freshman cornerback J.D. Harmon was called for unnecessary roughness to move the 'Dores to the Kentucky 38-yard line.
Zac Stacy plowed his way through Kentucky defenders for a 2-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half that put the 'Dores up 27-0. Running back Brian Kimbrow got a crack at the Kentucky defense in the second half. The true freshman scorched his way through the Wildcat defenders for a 33-yard touchdown run.
Stacy and Kimbrow ran for 69 yards rushing and a score each, Kimbrow on 13 carries and Stacy on 11 touches.
Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson tackled Rodgers on a third-down conversion attempt and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Wildcats. The 'Dores put together a dominating performance in conference play, averaging 4.5 yards per rush and 227 rushing yards and three scores.
Passing Defense: A
True freshman Jalen Whitlow completed a 35-yard pass to sophomore Demarco Robinson to get the Wildcats to midfield. Whitlow's next two pass attempts were for a loss of a yard and an incompletion that forced Kentucky to punt. It would be the story for much of the night with the Kentucky completing 13 of 35 pass attempts for 159 yards. Heavy pressure from true freshman defensive end Caleb Azubike hurried a screen pass to Robinson and Kentucky would again be forced to punt.
The cold, slippery weather seemed to affect the Wildcats more than the Commodores as Kentucky freshman Patrick Towles was held to 8 for 23 for 93 yards passing. Freshman Jalen Whitlow was 5 for 12 for 66 yards passing, with a long completion of 35 yards to Demarco Robinson. In one of Kentucky's two scoring opportunities, Andre Hal would break up a pass attempt by Patrick Towles to La'Rod King in the end zone. Free safety Kenny Ladler led the team with 6 solo tackles, including a tackle for loss.
Rushing Defense: C+
With Vanderbilt's offense rolling in the first half, the Wildcats were forced to throw more often than they would have liked on the cold day. Kentucky was held to rushing for seven first downs and just 101 yards.
Pressure from Rob Lohr forced a third-and-long. On the following play, nose tackle Jared Morse sacked Jalen Whitlow for a loss of six yards to force a long Kentucky field goal attempt. Kentucky tailback Jonathan George led the Wildcats with 14 carries for 44 yards.
The 'Dores gave up a five rushes for 10 or more yards with a long rush of 16 yards by Jalen Whitlow. Walker May and Lohr led the defensive line with 4 tackles, and a tackle for loss each. Middle linebacker Chase Garnham also added 4 tackles and a tackle for loss.
Special Teams: B
Jonathan Krause benefited from catching interference penalties twice in the first half; Vandy used the good field position to their advantage both times with touchdowns. Ryan Fowler missed an extra point left at the end of the first half that left the score 27-0 at intermission.
Carey Spear hit a career-best, 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The junior kicker made another field goal from 40 yards on the previous drive.
Vandy punter Richard Kent pinned the Wildcats on their own 5-yard line on one of his two punts on the night. Kent's other punt went 34 yards and was returned by Demarco Robinson 14 yards to give the Cats good field position near midfield.
Vandy had one of its best offensive performances against the Wildcats with 227 yards rushing and 220 yards passing. The 'Dores got everyone involved in the running game with Stacy, Tate, and Kimbrow each running for a score.
Shutouts against Kentucky and Presbyterian mark the first time since 1964 that the 'Dores posted two shutouts in a season; Franklin spoke about the victory after the game.
"I thought the kids executed extremely well." Franklin said. "I thought we had really good plans, didn't feel like we played as well as we could have played in the second half, a little sloppy, didn't protect the football. We still have to get off the field on defense with three-and-outs and turnovers; we can continue to improve there."
In one of the best SEC road performances in years, Franklin has a bigger challenge ahead in the next two weeks. The trip next week to Oxford, Miss., will be a completely different atmosphere compared to the thin crowd at Kentucky. A performance with mental mistakes suffered at Missouri and Georgia will be harder to overcome against the Rebels.
Vanderbilt took control of the game from the start with an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive. The offense was impressive with 447 total yards and the Commodores converted 8 for 10 of third-down conversion attempts in the first half.
In the second half, Jordan Rodgers turned the ball over on back to back plays nearly costing Vandy its first SEC shutout since a 6-0 victory over Kentucky in 1968.
The Vanderbilt defense stood firm in Kentucky's three trips inside the Vandy 35-yard line and did not allow a Wildcat score. The defense held Kentucky to 260 total yards and to 5 for 17 of third-down conversion attempts.
Things won't get any easier on the 'Dores with a trip to Ole Miss to face the (5-4, 3-2) Rebels. The winner will become bowl eligible and Ole Miss' remaining schedule includes a trip to LSU and a matchup with in state rival Mississippi State. A win would send the 'Dores to bowls for consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
Vanderbilt Report Card: Kentucky
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