The Vanderbilt defense was the one black and gold unit which was working at something like its potential on Saturday. This was despite the ugliest of ugly starts when the defense allowed the up tempo Kentucky offense to out scheme and out think them on the way to a 99-yard touchdown drive. The defense though managed to rally, and in truth it took a pretty controversial replay decision to keep those Wildcat points on the board in the first place.
From the moment of that touchdown onward the defense allowed just ten more points and zero in the second half. Add in the Darrius Sims pick six and the defense was only outscored by three points after the first Kentucky drive. This is despite the fact they were consistently on the field due to the ineptitude of the Vanderbilt offense. One of the biggest pluses was the third down work. After allowing a 63% conversion rate in the previous two SEC games the ‘Dores allowed Kentucky to convert on just 6-of-15 occasions. Playing defense at this level will be needed to keep the Commodores in games while the offense finds its feet.
2) Get the ball down the field – Fail
Not only did Vandy fail to get the ball down the field on Saturday, they pretty much failed to get it anywhere. The Commodores were held to just 139 total yards by the Wildcats, the fewest yards which Kentucky has held an SEC opponent to in nearly 20 years. Wade Freebeck looked every part the freshman quarterback he is compiling an eye wincing stat line of 8-for-25, 85 passing yards, and three interceptions. That is 3.4 yards per passing attempt for those compiling stats at home.
The positive here is that C.J. Duncan once again looked like he is ready to be a go to guy for this offense. Early on in particular he was standing out, making a couple of big catches and accounting for more than half the Vandy receiving yards on the day. The problem is that until Duncan has a quarterback who can consistently get him the ball his ceiling is lowered. In a productive offense you get the feeling he would be a beast.
Perhaps the most telling fact of all is that despite the fact that Vandy was only down ten for the entire second half, you never got the feeling like the outcome would be any different. Derek Mason needs to fix this quickly as apathy in a fan base is the most dangerous reaction of all.
3) Stay strong in the return game - Fail
The best field position Vanderbilt started a drive with after a kickoff was on the 25-yard line. This was on the one kickoff which went for a touchback. The other three Vanderbilt possessions following a Kentucky kick off started at the 17, 18, and 22 yard lines. Not good enough work from a special teams unit which excelled last week.
A struggling offense needs a field position boost. The Commodores are not built right now to drive 80+ yards for a score. There is an argument that this puts too much pressure on the special teams, but until further notice that is how Vanderbilt finds itself. This area of the game needs to be better next time out.
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Also see: Roanoke's around the SEC: Georgia Week