Vanderbilt Report Card: Wake Forest

Vanderbilt defeated Wake Forest 23-21 on Saturday.'s Don Yates grades the Commodores' performance in several key team areas.

Vanderbilt gained 271 yards while completing 26-of-37 passes for one touchdown and an interception. Like the UT game, Vandy rotated Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette. Carta-Samuels finished completing 24-of-33 passes for 231 and had both the TD pass and the interception. The scoring pass came in the first drive of the game on a 7-yard throw to senior Fitz Lassing. The interception came on Vandy's first drive of the second half. Justin Jackson returned the interception 63-yards for a score. That play nearly cost Vandy the game. Carta-Samuels longest pass was to Jordan Matthews for 41 yards on that first scoring drive. In the fourth quarter Matthews made a leaping catch between two defenders to covert a fourth-and-11 situation and give Vandy a chance to pull out the win. Patton Robinette completed 2-of-4 passes for 40 yards. His best pass was a 28-yarder to Steven Scheu in the second quarter. Scheu had a nice game catching three passes for 48 yards. Matthews finished with 11 catches for 125 yards. During the game he became the first ever player in SEC history to catch 100 passes in a season. Jonathan Krause made six catches for 52 yards. Jordan Cunningham made two catches for 16 yards. Brian Kimbrow even caught two passes. Vandy's blockers allowed one sack during the game.

Missing Jerron Seymour to injury, Vanderbilt managed to get about their normal rushing yardage. The Commodores picked up 132 yards on 45 carries (2.9 YPC). Brian Kimbrow led the way with 45 yards on 13 carries. Backup quarterback Patton Robinette continues to show a quick first step. He finished with 44 yards rushing on just nine carries (4.9 YPC). Robinette doesn't look very stout but he is a hard runner reminiscent of Jay Cutler but without the head first runs. Wesley Tate picked up 34 yards on 10 carries and had a fumble that nearly cost Vandy the game. Austyn Carta-Samuels gained 28 yards on 10 carries and had the longest run of the game for the Commodores, 21 yards.

Vanderbilt, with two backups starting in the defensive secondary, limited Wake quarterback Tanner Price to just 16-of-32 completions for 155 yards passing and no touchdowns. Senior linebacker Chase Garnham made a huge play late in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a pass by Price. Jahmel McIntosh and Paris Head, Vandy's tough young defensive backs who started, each finished with four tackles. Karl Butler, a former D-back, helped with the passing defense by breaking up a pass. Big Jared Morse and Kenny Ladler, who only played the second half, each came up with pass breakups too. Walker May came up with a critical sack of Price in the final minute of the game when the Demon Deacons were threatening to get in field goal range to win the game.

Vandy limited Wake to 111 yards rushing on 24 carries (4.6 YPC). Quarterback Tanner Price led the Demon Deacons with 47 yards on 12 carries (3.9 YPC). He scored Wake's first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard scamper in the first quarter to tie the score at seven. Dominique Gibson, who had just two carries in the game, scored Wake's other TD on a 9-yard run in the second quarter. Speedster Josh Harris had some decent runs early but finished with just 35 yards on seven carries (5.0 YPC). Karl Butler led the 'Dores in tackles with six stops including five solos. Butler and Javon Marshall each were in on tackles for losses.

Carey Spear had one of his best days as a Commodore making all three field goal attempts including a kick in the final minute that won the game for Vandy. Spear had a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter. He was called upon again with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter and nailed a 25 yarder. Then, with just 39 seconds remaining, Spear calmly booted a 38-yard field goal to give Vandy back-to-back eight win seasons for the first time in 85 years. Taylor Hudson had a 64-yard punt but later shanked one for 14 yards. Colby Cooke finished with two punts for a 53 yard average. Neither team garnered any significant kick or punt returns. Conversely, there were no major breakdowns by the kick-punt coverage teams.

Anytime you can coach your team to make four of four fourth down conversions you are a special coach. It's more than just Xs and Os; it's about building confidence in your players which the 'Dores have… and having confidence in those same player's abilities. The difference in this game was the coaching. Jim Grobe is a solid coach but he's more of a Bobby Johnson style "punt and back them up" coach. Twice in the third quarter the Deacons' Grobe chose to punt in fourth and 3 situations in Vandy territory. Perhaps if Grobe would have rolled the dice at least once Wake might have won, but we'll never know. James Franklin did choose to roll the dice and hit pay dirt all four times and Vandy's 8-4 while the Grobe coached Deacons are 4-8 with several very close losses this season.

It was a great win for Vandy. The Commodores got plenty of young players in the game in a tight contest. This experience should play dividends in their future careers. Couple this experience with the extra practice time that the players will get preparing for the upcoming bowl and you have the potential to get a jump on preparation for 2014 season. This while teams like Tennessee and Florida sit at home and think of what might have been.

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