Three Keys Revisited Vandy vs South Carolina

After the first three weeks of the season Vanderbilt coaches, players, and fans, needed this. The ‘Dores played a spirited game where signs of improvement and player development were shown all over the field.

Though youth and inexperience eventually cost Vandy in their 48-34 loss to #16 South Carolina, everyone came away from the game feeling a whole lot better than the win over UMass a week ago. Here is a look back at the three keys.

1) Win on third down - Fail

The Commodores were unable to overcome their own deficiencies on third down often enough to win this battle within the game. Against South Carolina the ‘Dores were 4-of-10 on third down (40%) while the Gamecocks converted 7-of-12 (58%) attempts. Unsurprisingly, the Commodores were pretty effective on third and short, but with a young quarterback the struggled on anything that even resembled a pure passing down. Thankfully the coaching staff understood that Vandy needed to be ahead of the chains to be successful and thus rode the backfield as much as they could on Saturday.

2) Keep finding ways to score – Pass

When the team has basically looked lost and dysfunctional through three consecutive home games you need something to get the crowd going early. When Darrius Sims took the opening kickoff 91 yards to the house the stadium erupted in a way it just has not at any point to date this year. Sims, however, was not even being close to being done. Just as it looked like the Gamecocks were starting to pull away in the second half, after a Gamecock field goal, Sims returned a kickoff 100 yards. The return was ridiculous as he hit a lane he had no right to squeeze through and turned on the jets to burn past all the South Carolina defenders. If Sims can continue to return kicks like Devin Hester, and if he can find some role in the offense, then this Vandy team is going to have many options going forward.

3) Make Ralph Webb the focus - Pass

When Patton Robinette went down the ‘Dores really had no choice but to ride Webb as far as he could take them. The tailback responded by rumbling and running over tacklers on his way to almost 100 yards on 19 carries. Webb is improving by the week and there is legitimate excitement in Nashville about just how good of a back he can become. In many ways Webb, and his improving performances, are a microcosm of this whole team. The coaching staff is beginning to believe in his value as a runner and the tweaks in the offense are all designed toward making the most out of his talent. No matter the quarterback, Webb has to continue to be the guy if the ‘Dores are to upset anyone along the way this season.

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