Vandy Report Card: Charleston Southern

Vanderbilt defeated Charleston Southern 21-20 on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com's Don Yates grades the Commodores' performance in several key team areas.

PASSING OFFENSE: B
Wade Freebeck started the game at QB and completed 5-of-7 passes for 20 yards in leading the team on an early drive for a field goal. Freebeck was replaced by Johnny McCrary with 11:52 left in the second quarter. McCrary handed off for his first two plays but on his third play dropped back to pass and found C.J. Duncan alone for a 65-yard touchdown reception. McCrary went on to complete 10-of-16 for 169 yards, the touchdown and an interception. Duncan had a huge game, catching seven passes for 119 yards and the TD. When he scored his TD he dove over the left corner of the end zone and held the ball just over the pylon to get the score. Ralph Webb had two short catches. Six over VU players had one catch. The Commodore blockers allowed one sack (of Freebeck). No, Vandy didn't tear things up through the air but considering that two quarterbacks were out this was a solid performance.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C
Vandy as a team gained just 106 yards on 31 carries (3.4 YPC). Ralph Webb picked up 56 yards on 15 carries (3.7 YPC). He didn't seem himself and may have been suffering from the lingering effects of injuries from the Georgia game. Dallas Rivers picked up Webbs' slack. Late in the game when the 'Dores were desperate for a first down they turned to Rivers who ran with reckless abandon, picking up 27 yards on that final drive. He finished with 47 yards on 11 carries for the game. Darrius Sims and Kellen Williams each had 5-yard runs. McCrary showed his quickness on one 3-yard run.

PASSING DEFENSE: C
CSU quarterback Austin Brown struggled in the first half but played well in the second half, completing 11-of-24 passes for 188 yards. In the fourth quarter he connected with Mike Holloway for a 59-yard reception that put the Bucs at the Vandy 20. Thankfully the defense was able to hold and force a field goal. Vanderbilt was not without heroes on defense. In the second quarter Taurean Ferguson intercepted a pass and returned it to the CSU 34 to setup Vandy's second touchdown scored. Caleb Azubike finished with a QB hurry and also made a good play in the end zone to prevent a CSU touchdown. Vandy defenders had four other pass breakups.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C
Vandy allowed CSU rushers 199 yards on 41 carries. Mike Holloway was particularly effective against the 'Dores, running 18 times for 105 yards but Zachary Frazier scored the Buccaneer's only rushing TD of the game on a 10-yard run in the third quarter. Nigel Bowden finished with 10 tackles. Ja'Karri Thomas, in his first start, had nine stops.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Colby Cooke had five punts for a 42.4 yard average and a long of 68 yards. He put two of his punts inside the CSU 20. Tommy Openshaw made both his field goal attempts, from 39 and 42 yards. Vanderbilt point after team scored 2 points when Taylor Hudson found Andrew East on a short page. That heads up play turned out the be the difference in the game. The one blemish, a big blemish, on the special teams was the blocked punt by CSU late in the second quarter that nearly cost Vanderbilt the game. Without that block this would be an 'A' grade.

COACHING: C
Good job on the 2-points scored after the TD. This setup was implemented by the coaches to catch opponents off guard in order to possibly gain an additional point after a score. A few games ago one failed and everyone was calling out the coaches. Now after it's successful the same folks want to not give the coaches credit. They get credit here for that. They also get credit for giving Johnny McCrary another shot after his nightmarish performance against Temple. Some other coaches in the past would not have done that. Without McCrary's heroics Vandy likely loses its first ever game to an FCS opponent. Still, this game was messy. The holding penalties in the second half were drive killers. The offense scored 21 points in the first half and when 0 for the second half. The head coach showed a poor example for the team when he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now how can he ever scold a player for doing the same?

OVERALL GRADE: C
It was great to get a win, even a 1-point win over an FCS opponent. It should be mentioned that this was no average FCS opponent but a very solid one. The team and coaches struggled throughout the second half but give them credit for making the plays on both offense and defense in the final minutes to preserve a win. Now the coaches and players must take advantage of the bye week. Much improvement has been made in penalties made and turnovers given but the biggest area the team needs to improve in is offense. Drives need to last longer and more of them need to end in scores. This will make the defense better by keeping them off the field and fresher.

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