Vanderbilt Report Card: Missouri

The Vanderbilt Commodores defeated Missouri 10-3 on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.'s Don Yates grades the team in several critical areas.


For the game, Vanderbilt completed 17 of 28 passes for 136 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.   True freshman Kyle Shurmur started the game and his first couple passes were low incompletions but he settled down and completed 10 of 20 passes for 89 yards.  He showed that he has the ability to do a quick dump off pass during a blitz but he did get sacked twice, losing a fumble on one of them. That’s what a freshman in his first start will do. His best completion was a second quarter 24-yard catch and run pass to Darrius Sims.  Johnny McCrary (7-of-8 47 yds) came came in for the third series of the game and played the last three series of the fourth quarter.  Trent Sherfield and Steven Scheu both had five catches for Vandy.   The Commodore blockers allowed three sacks  (Shurmur 2, McCrary 1).


Vanderbilt’s rushing attack gained 168 yards in 49 rushing attempts (3.4 ypc).  Starting running back Ralph Webb led the way with 99 yards on 26 carries (3.8 ypc).  Darrius Sims didn’t do as well as he did at South Carolina, gaining just 58 yards but he still averaged over six yards a carry (6.4) on nine carries.   Vanderbilt offensive lineman Spencer Pulley was named the SEC lineman of the Week for his outstanding blocking versus Missouri.   


Vanderbilt's defense was stellar against Missouri, holding the Tigers to their lowest scoring output of the season.  The Commodore defense limited Missouri to just one first down in the first half while also limiting the Tigers to 0 of 14 third down conversions.   Vandy's passing defense was stellar, limiting the Tigers to just 14 of 34 completions for 108 yards.    Tiger QB starter Drew Lock’s longest completion of the day was for just 17 yards.  Vandy’s defense terrorized Lock all game, sacking him four times.   Stephen Weatherly, Darreon Herring, Adam Butler and Landon Stokes, all had sacks.  Herring’s sack in particular was viscous and sent the victim’s helmet flying.  There were no interceptions by either team but Taurean Ferguson  had two pass breakups.


Vandy’s rushing defense was also outstanding.   The Commodores limited the Tigers to just 80 yards on 19 rushes (4.2 ypc).  However, if you subtract the 26-yard fake punt yardage, which actually is on the special teams punt coverage team, Vandy allowed just 54 yards on 18 carries for a 3.0 yard per carry average.   Vanderbilt tackles were fairly evenly distributed with CB Torren McGastor leading the way with just five.  Zach Cunningham, who often is one of the top tacklers for the Dores, had only three tackles.   


Vanderbilt’s punt coverage units were caught by surprise for big gain on a fake punt.  Not sure what they were thinking. Anytime a team is struggling in the third down conversion department, if they are coached by someone smart, like Pinkel is, they will try something like a fake punt to get things going.  Tommy Openshaw missed two of three field goal attempts.  Openshaw missed a 45-yard attempt at the end of the first half and then made a 40-yard kick in the fourth quarter before missing a 32-yard attempt that might have locked the game up for the Dores, later in the fourth quarter. His normal holder, Kris Kentera, should be back this week so maybe that will help things.    Openshaw had seven punts for an over 45-yard average.  He boomed one 78 yards.  Ryan White returned seven punts for 71 yards, with a long return of 15 yards.  Khari Blasingame had a hard hit on the Missouri kickoff return to start the game, forcing a fumble.  A really poor SEC officiating crew ruled that he was down though, robbing Khari of the forced fumble… and Vandy of a possible early score.   


Great work shutting down the Missouri offense.  That was the difference in the game.   While the offense had problems scoring again, at least the turnover nightmare was stopped for this game enabling the team to pull out a much needed victory.   I agreed with McCrary being switched with Shurmur.  I was worried at first but it worked out just fine.  The coaches knew Shurmur was ready and gave him a shot.  I think the duel quarterback concept might work but the first time McCrary turns over the ball and costs the team another game, people are going to ask, why was he in there if he had issues with turnovers?  McCrary is a very smart, athletic player who could help the team in several other capacities.  That should be looked at in the spring.


Any win is an ‘A’ grade really.  The team and staff got it done.  Now it’s time to get ready for a high scoring Houston team.  Seem’s like deja vu, Vandy has played several teams like this this season.  Houston, though, is probably a better team than Western Kentucky but not near the caliber of Ole Miss.  It’s a another tough challenge for this emerging Vanderbilt team.    

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