PASSING OFFENSE: B
Not a bad opening performance for Vandy's Austyn Carta-Samuels. Carta-Samuels finished 21 for 36 for two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. At least one, maybe two, of the picks weren't Carta-Samuels' fault. Other than the first quarter, when he shook off the rust, Carta-Samuels looked like the veteran college quarterback he is. Carta-Samuels' top target was all-everything Jordan Matthews who caught 10 passes for 178 yards despite missing nearly the entire third quarter to get an IV. Matthews played sick and his heroics captured the admiration of a huge television audience on ESPN. Jonathan Krause filled in admirably for suspended Chris Boyd, catching six passes for 66 yards. Tight end Steven Scheu picked up a pair of catches including a huge 34-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that nearly allowed Vandy to escape with a victory. The Commodores offensive line did a fine job on the night and kept Ole Miss 5-star, No.1 DE signee Robert Nkemdiche under control for the most part.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C
We've seen a lot worse than the Commodore rushing game on Thursday night but we've also seen a lot better. Vandy gained only 126 total rushing yards on 33 attempts (3.8 YPC). Of the trio of running backs of Brian Kimbrow, Wesley Tate and Jerron Seymour, Seymour had the fewest carries but gained the most yards of the three. Seymour's 3-yard scoring run in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. During that play he ducked from the huge pursuing arms of Nkemdiche and scampered into the end zone to put the 'Dores up 21-10. Seymour finished with 43 yards on just five carries (8.6 YPC). Tate continues to thrive in the red zone. Although he gained only 39 yards on 17 carries (2.3 YPC) Tate was able to score two touchdowns, both from three yards out. Brian Kimbrow had six carries for 37 (6.2 YPC)
PASSING DEFENSE: C-
The Commodore defense had a rough night against both the run and pass. Through the air Vandy gave up 283 yards on 31-of-47 passing by Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. Vanderbilt was able to get some significant pressure on Wallace starting late in the first quarter and throughout the second quarter. Other than that period of the game, Wallace had free reign. While the defense, led by Kyle Woestmann (2 sacks), Stephen Weatherly and Darreon Herring was terrorizing Wallace, the VU offense also surged. Head coach James Franklin said after the game that to win the Commodores needed to put pressure on the opposing QB throughout the game. Still, the four sacks in such a short period of time was impressive but Ole Miss made adjustments on their offensive line and put freshman sensation wideout Laquon Treadwell who caught nine passes, most of them in the second half. Vandy's secondary wasn't without heroics. For instance, Andre Hal had nine tackles and broke up three passes. Steven Clarke and Karl Butler also had pass breakups. In all, Vandy had an impressive eight passes defensed during the game. However, the Commodores could never get a pick and one of those would have likely swung the game in the Commodores' favor. In a normal day four sacks and eight defensed passes would mean you dominated your opponent but on Thursday that wasn't the case. A future NFLer named Treadwell had a lot to do with that.
RUSHING DEFENSE: C
Some say Vandy's rushing defense was fine if you take away that last 75-yard run by Jeff Scott. I say that 75-yard run was a 75-yard run that cost Vandy the game. The 'Dores wish they could go back and make a play on that one but it's too late. Vandy was poised to defend the pass and let its guard down against the run and it cost them. Yes, there were good plays made during the game against the run. Javon Marshall had nine solo tackles and Kenny Ladler had seven. Yes, without Scott's run the Rebs have only 131 yards rushing for the game but unfortunately that's not the way things finished up.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Carey Spear didn't attempt a field goal but he was outstanding with his many kickoffs. Of his six kickoffs five were touchbacks. Taylor Hudson had a shanked first punt that went for 16 yards but he regrouped and finished with five punts for a 40 yard average. He had one that he placed inside the 20. Of the seven kickoffs they received, Vanderbilt returned three of them. Twice Vandy was pinned back around its 10-yard line and once the Commodores nearly turned the ball over off a fumble. Only Darrius Sims was able to mount a significant kickoff return as he was able to gain 34 yards on his return in the fourth quarter. Sims actually looked the best of the three kick returners (the others were Brian Kimbrow and Andre Hal). I bet we see more of Sims returning kicks in the future. Jonathan Krause had one punt return for two yards. Vanderbilt return coverage teams were able to hold Ole Miss without significant returns.
It was another solid coaching job by James Franklin and his staff. Sure everything didn't go as the team had hoped, it rarely does, but the team was battling until the end and slugging it out with another fine team. Yes, Vandy got caught with its pants down (no pun intended) on that 75-yard run but one play does not define a coach's performance. When Vandy was down 32-28 with only a few minutes remaining in the contest, you knew Franklin and his team were going to make a run and they did. The 75-yard run was unfortunate for everyone involved except the other team. Some days things just don't go your way. Alabama had a day like that last season against Texas A&M but they rebounded and won it all. Franklin and his staff had Carta-Samuels ready for the game and few college football analysts believed Vandy could score 35 points on Ole Miss. Franklin has some work to do on defensive side of the ball but he and Bob Shoop will get that taken care of.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
Yes, a loss is a loss but they came so close and you have to believe this team is capable of beating some teams it isn't supposed to this season. The Floridas, Texas A&Ms, Georgias and South Carolinas on the schedule had better watch out. However, first things first, though, Vandy fans need to be yelling "Let's go GET Peay!"
Vanderbilt Report Card: Ole Miss
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