Three Keys Vanderbilt at Kentucky

The Commodores finally put together something resembling a football team last time out against South Carolina, pushing the heavily favored Gamecocks for the majority of the contest before falling 48-34.

Kentucky too pushed an SEC heavyweight all the way their last time out, giving Florida all they could handle and more before falling in three overtimes. The Wildcats are a program on the rise and the ‘Dores will be expecting a tough game in Lexington. Here are the three keys.

1) Defense has to step it up

The problems with the Vanderbilt offense have been well documented, but the defense has hardly been making waves to this point in the season either. Though the unit has been hampered by some horribly short fields at times, the ‘Dores are still giving up almost 40 points and over 420 yards of total offense per game. This does not bode well when you factor in that Kentucky has been lighting it up on offense in 2014 with 36 points per game and over 502 yards of total offense.

The Commodores offense is not yet at the point where it can outscore teams. It needs the defense to be stouter, even if that entails giving up a lot of yards and stiffening up in the red zone. For Vanderbilt to have a shot at winning this game the Wildcats must be kept to under 400 yards of offense and under 25 points. Neither of those totals seems too unrealistic, especially if Vandy can get a turnover of two.

2) Get the ball down the field

Another week, another question mark as to who the starting quarterback will be for the ‘Dores. This week the issue is one of health as Patton Robinette sees his status up in the air due to the concussion he suffered last week. If he can go he will, but if not then Wade Freebeck will have to step in and continue his fast developing learning curve. Either way the Commodores need to make the passing game click.

Kentucky is actually fairly stout against the run, but there is a definite weakness in the secondary. Last time out Jeff Driskel, the oft injured and criminally inaccurate Florida quarterback, passed for 295 yards against the Wildcats’ defense. If he can do that much damage then whoever gets the nod for Vandy has to be looking downfield to stretch the defense a little and get the wide receivers more balls. Yes, there is no Jordan Matthews out there anymore, but C.J. Duncan is emerging as a real weapon and it is important that Vanderbilt work him into the game plan.

3) Stay strong in the return game

It is unlikely that the ‘Dores are going to get two more touchdowns on kickoff returns this weekend, but it is important that the kick return game continues to be a factor. When a team is still finding itself offensively then good field position is essential to increase the chances of winning. Darrius Sims may have scored twice against South Carolina, but after his scores the kick return situation was just brutal with two kicks being downed inside the 15, a lost fumble, and a 12-yard return.

Expect to see squib kicks quickly if Sims gets any kind of return on the first couple of kickoffs. If Vandy can find a way to start drives between the 25 and the 30-yard line then they will be in a much better position to win the game.

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