VU Football: Forward Movement

Yards can so easily become an empty statistical measurement of a team's success. Passing yards accumulated when trailing by 21 points (hello, Johnny Manziel against Alabama) can carry the whiff of garbage... as in garbage touchdowns. Yet, for Vanderbilt in 2013, yards mattered. The Dores made them matter, to be more precise.


REAL ESTATE VALUE: EVERY YARD MATTERED FOR VANDERBILT LAST SEASON

If Vanderbilt cut against the grain last season by going 4-2 in FBS games in which it lacked a positive turnover differential, the Dores forged an 8-4 record against the FBS in a different and more dominant way: They simply never faltered when they empirically moved the ball better than their opponents.

Vanderbilt lived on the edge in many respects last season, but in terms of the bread-and-butter measurements of offensive prowess, the Dores always – yes, always - translated an advantage into victory. The statistics tell the story.

Of the 12 FBS games Vanderbilt played last season (including the bowl win over Houston), the Dores gained more first downs in only five of them. However, when VU did forge a first-down advantage, it went 5-0. (The team's record in FBS games with fewer first downs than an opponent? 3-4.) The Commodores gained more yards than an opponent six times. Vanderbilt's record: 6-0 (2-4 when gaining fewer yards). The VU crew accumulated more rushing yards than the opposition on six occasions last season. The Commodores went 6-0 in those games (2-4 when gaining fewer rushing yards).

This isn't necessarily a case in which a team defied conventional wisdom. It's worth noting that passing yards are generally less trustworthy than rushing yards in pointing to a team's prosperity, or lack thereof. (For the record, VU went 6-2 in the eight games when it outpassed an opponent, 2-2 when it didn't.) Yet, passing yards are part of the total yardage equation, so it remains conspicuous that VU was able to go 6-0 when outgaining an opponent. Is this a small sample size? Surely. However, it's yet one more indication of the extent to which this team didn't leave any money on the table in 2013.

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