Three Keys Revisited Vanderbilt vs UMass

A three point win as a 17-point favorite at home will certainly not be enough to please the doubters, but Vanderbilt was able to do enough to beat a UMass team who couldn’t get out of their own way on Saturday to record their first win of the year.

After spotting the Minutemen a fourteen point lead, and after trailing by eleven with nine minutes to play, the ‘Dores showed great resilience in battling back for the victory. Obviously the problems Vandy faces are not solved or glossed over by this win, but the small improvements should be enough to give hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

1) Feed Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers - Pass

Dallas Rivers did not get a carry against the Minutemen, but Ralph Webb showed once again exactly why he needs to be the focal point of the Vanderbilt offense from this point onward. Webb carried the ball 26 times for 116 yards and a touchdown at an average of 4.5 yards per tote. What Webb has shown through three games is toughness and a desire which some other parts of the team have yet to show. He will put his head down and fight for every last yard after contact, a trait which will have opponents stacking the box and allowing the Vandy passing game to get going. With a healthy Jerron Seymour back in the mix too the ‘Dores running game looks to be in very capable hands moving on into the season.

2) Stop Tajae Sharpe – Fail

The ‘Dores seemed like they had no interest at all in covering Sharpe on the first UMass drive as he picked up first down after first down through the air. Sharpe finished with a game high eight receptions for 73 yards at an average of just over nine yards per reception. The main problem was that the defensive scheme seemed to dictate giving Sharpe eight to ten yard cushions on every play. This did negate any big plays to the 6-foot-four, 200-pounder, but it gave the Minutemen free reign to hit quick out patterns and hooks as they pleased. The youth at cornerback is a real problem for this Vanderbilt team and it is a worry that this kind of defensive philosophy will be the norm against bigger, stronger receivers all year long.

3) Find a quarterback – Pass (maybe)

Really this should be an automatic fail for burning the redshirt of Wade Freebeck during one of the most ineffective quarters you can imagine. Just assume that Freebeck doesn’t play again this year. In that case a top prospect loses an entire year of eligibility for -2 yards of offense and an interception. Just what Derek Mason was trying to prove with this move is still totally unclear a couple of days after the game.

It does appear though that Vandy may have found a quarterback. Whether it be by mistake, by luck, or by default, it appears that the best option under center is in fact the same guy who started the season there. Patton Robinette may have his obvious deficiencies as a quarterback, arm strength downfield being the biggest, but if the ‘Dores can commit to a run heavy offense which uses just short and mid-range passes then he surely has to be the man for the job.

Robinette’s biggest positive is his drive to win. His passes may not always be pretty, he owes C.J. Duncan a meal or two for bailing him out on a near interception on that final drive, but he can will the players around him to victory if the game plan is tailored to suit his style. Robinette should start the next game and the hook should be nowhere in sight. This team is in dire need of stability, now it is time for the coaching staff to provide that.

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