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Vanderbilt Report Card: Basic 40-yard punt might have won game

Vanderbilt fell to Florida 9-7 on Saturday in Gainesville.'s Don Yates grades the Commodores' performance in several key team areas.


Johnny McCrary completed 3-of-14 passes for a paltry 30 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.   Not good at all but I give McCrary credit here for not turning over the ball despite being sacked five times.  True freshman tight end Sam Dobbs had a 21-yard catch, the first reception of his career.  Dallas Rivers (6 yards) and Ronald Monroe (3 yards) had the other two catches.


Ralph Webb gained 118 yards on 22 carries (5.4 ypc) and had a spectacular 74-yard touchdown run that nearly was enough to upset the Gators.  On that play the Dores offensive line opened a big hole and also got some help from an official who blocked out one Gator defender.    Overall, Vandy gained 145 yards on 48 carries (3.0 ypc).  Trent Sherfield had 17 yards on a jet sweep.  Dallas Rivers has six carries for 17 yards.  Darrius Sims had six carries for minus seven yards. He got caught in the backfield a couple times due to offensive line breakdowns.  It was a solid job against a tough defense. 


Vandy limited Florida starting QB Treon Harris to just 12-of-24 completions for one interception. Ryan White intercepted a Gator pass in the first half that thwarted Florida’s effort to take a 2-score lead into the locker room and also setup the Commodores for Webb’s long run that gave Vandy the lead.  Vanderbilt had six quarterback hurries during the game including two by Stephen Weatherly.   


Vanderbilt limited the Gators to just 93 yards on 34 carries (2.7 ypc).  Starting running back Kelvin Taylor gained 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 ypc). He scored on a 3 yard run in the first quarter.  Torren McGaster made a great hit to thwart a fourth-and-goal conversion attempt by the Gators early in the game.  That play set the tempo for the entire game.   Jay Woods, Landon Stokes and Caleb Azubike all had forced fumbles.   Zach Cunningham recovered two fumbles and Azubike another.


The Commodore kick/punt coverage units allowed over 180 return yards averaging nearly 14 yards per punt return and gave up a 71-yard non-scoring kickoff return.  Tommy Openshaw punted 10 times and nine of them were outstanding, averaging 45.5 yards. The tenth, however, spanned just 12 yards and putting the Gator offense in business at the VU 45.   Openshaw didn’t attempt a field goal. 


Good job by the coaches getting a reign on the turnovers and giving the team a chance to win the game.   That said, the offense, other than the 74-yard run and a few runs, was pitiful and has gotten worse as the season has gone on.  There were four illegal formation calls on the Commodores.  All were declined by the Gators because the calls usually came after big sacks or other losses.  Not sure what was going on here but that falls on coaching.  Mason’s defense was amazing and almost won the game single handedly.    Openshaw’s shanked punt really hurt the Dores.   The offense had at least advanced the ball to the VU 33 supposedly setting up a fairly long field for the Gators to travel for their winning score.  The shank gave them the ball at the VU 45 instead.  A basic 40-yard punt might have won the game there for Vandy.  Openshaw had an 11-yard stinker at Houston last week that didn’t burn Vandy because the defense held but the coaches put in Colby Cooke for one punt against the Cougars, a 45-yarder.   By putting in Cooke, maybe the coaches intended to send a message to Openshaw.  Well, it didn’t work. 


The offense continues to struggle but did improve significantly in the turnover area.   The defense was strong and mean but didn’t get it done on the last drive as they had much of the game.   Vandy nearly won but in the end it’s just another ‘L’ in the won-loss column.   The team can’t let this one beat them twice. They have a very vulnerable Kentucky team coming in on Saturday.  A win would be a shot in the arm for the program and keep the bowl hopes flame still flickering.    

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