Three Keys Vanderbilt vs UMass

In the absence of a reset button which probably doesn’t exist it is probably time to tone down the expectations for the ‘Dores this fall. There are still positives coming from these early season games and the level of talent on the field is certainly high enough that there should be drastic week to week improvement.

With that being said the Commodores on the worst day should still have too much for a UMass team which is one of the worst in the country. Here are the three keys.

1) Feed Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers

I really don’t know that it gets much simpler than this. Vanderbilt has no quarterback. Vanderbilt has two very capable running backs. This would probably suggest you ride the running backs until a) the defense stops them or b) their legs fall off.

Stephen Rivers was 6-of-25 for 60 yards last weekend. You don’t beat anyone with that kind of inefficiency from your quarterback. This is an open plea to Karl Dorrell to get Webb and Rivers (Dallas) 35-40 touches between them on Saturday. If they do the /Dores will win, if they don’t its up in the air. Both have proved they can see lanes, break tackles, and finish their runs in a positive manner. I know football in general has moved away from the running back and into the realm of the passing game, but Vandy just are is in a position to do that just yet.

2) Stop Tajae Sharpe

Tajae Sharpe is a 6-foot-4, 200 pound junior wide receiver who is clearly the Minutemen’s best offensive player. He has the speed to be a dynamic receiver after the catch and he has the size and strength to be a match up nightmare in the red zone. Through two games against BCS level competition Sharpe has 7 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown. He is going to be someone that the Vandy defense must key on and it would not be any kind of shock to see him take the attention of two defenders for most of the game.

The success and ability of the ‘Dores defense through two games has been completely masked by the ineptitude of the offense to do anything positive. If they can shut down Sharpe, and stop him having big plays like the 77-yard touchdown he had against Boston College, then there is no reason to think that this unit cannot shut down UMass entirely.

3) Find a quarterback

Two weeks after using three quarterbacks ineffectively and one week after using one quarterback even more ineffectively the Vandy depth chart now has four quarterbacks listed as co-starters. Someway, somehow, Derek Mason has to get a quarterback he and the offense are comfortable with and who can move the ball down the field. There are arguments for all of the options here (except for Wade Freebeck as pulling his redshirt would be ridiculous) but often when you have three options it is because you don’t have one true option.

I was big in the Stephen Rivers camp before Saturday, but he looked terrible for the vast majority of the Mississippi game. The problem is that the Karl Dorrell offense just doesn’t seem flexible enough to take advantage of what Vandy can do well. It might just be time to throw Johnny McCrary out and run some kind of hybrid option at this point. It is not like the offense could look much worse.

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