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Vanderbilt Report Card: Kentucky

Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 21-17 on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com's Don Yates grades the Commodore performance in several important team areas.


Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed to 13 of 26 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  Shurmur showed great poise during the game, not panicking on blitzes and finishing with no sacks or interceptions, which is refreshing. He wasn't Joe Montana out there but he at least gave Vandy a chance and didn't help the opposition.  He completed a 4-yard touchdown to fellow frosh Kyle Anderton on the first play after Vanderbilt had recovered a UK fumble.  He also completed that memorable 37-yard scoring pass to all alone Caleb Scott, a play that will be discussed for years to come by Vandy fans. 


Not so great a job on the rushing front.  Ralph Webb gets an 'A-' individually for rushing for 113 yards in 33 carries (3.4 ypc).  He's a work horse and his longest run was for 16 yards. He gets the minus for having a rare fumble early in the game.  Kentucky seemed to be keying on stopping the run in order to force the young Shurmur into passing mistakes.  Dallas Rivers was sound with 16 yards on four attempts, with a long of seven yards.  That carry converted on a third down situation early in the game.


Vandy's Black Death Defense limited Kentucky to just 15 of 34 completions for 127 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. It was a super defensive performance. The second quarter was huge for Vandy as Oren Burks intercepted two passes.  The first interception was with the Cats threatening at the Vandy three.  Torren McGastor broke up a pass and then Burks intercepted it in the end zone.  Later in the second quarter, with new QB Drew Barker in the game, Oren got another pick in full stride and ran untouched for a 30-yard touchdown.   Patrick Towles completed 10 of 26 passes for 67 yards.  Barker completed 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards.  Vanderbilt had two sacks during the game, both by Caleb Azubike. 


Not the greatest performance by the Vandy defense. UK's running back Stanley "Boom" Williams was as advertised.  He had 13 carries and was held in check for the most part but two runs, one a 66-yard bolt in which Tre Herndon was able to run him down at the Vandy 7, the other a 38-yard run to the VU 39, enabled Williams to finish with 115 yards rushing. He had an 8.8 yard per rush average.  Fellow UK running back Jojo Kemp had 53 yards on 8 carries (6.6 ypc).  Kemp scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. As usual, linebacker Zach Cunningham led the 'Dores in tackles with 10.   McGaster had six stops.


Vanderbilt won despite its special teams. It started early. Vandy allowed a UK's Sihiem King a 39-yard kickoff return to start the game. Thankfully the defense forced a field goal or the outcome might have been different. Later, on a Commodore punt return, Darrius Sims' fumble was recovered at the Vandy 3. Burks' interception in the end zone thwarted that Cat threat. Then in the third quarter, Ryan White, who had replaced Sims as return man, fumbled the ball at the Vandy 36. Luckily Tre Bell recovered that fumble. The one bright spot that kept this grade from being an 'F' was freshman Andrew Rector's block of a UK punt which gave VU the ball at the UK 36. Tommy Openshaw was sound punting the ball averaging 36.8 yards per punt with a long of 49 yards. He had several "pooch" punts.  Hayden Lekacz is apparently now the Vanderbilt kicker. He made 3 of 3 extra points during the game.  Vandy did not attempt a field goal. 


Great job with the trick play to Caleb Scott.  That was probably the difference in the game.  Not sure why it took 10 games to finally try some trickery but better late than never.  A lot of observers have questioned Mason's decision not to attempt field goals in the second half in a couple of situations. I think it was a good decision not to.  Vanderbilt was using a new kicker in Lekacz. The defense had played well so why risk a disaster on fairly long field goals?  Vandy had just three penalties for 25 yards during the game.  The Commodore staff continues to excel in this area. Vandy is currently 16th nationally in penalties, averaging 41.4 yards per game.


Sound performance. We saw that the defense can give up more yards when an opponent is desperate.  Too often opponents have simply run conservative offenses because they don't want to give Vandy easy scoring opportunities.  In this game we saw a mediocre opponent gain considerable yardage on the ground. Vandy took advantage of opportunities given, unlike in other games.  The offense gave up some turnovers but the defense rose to the occasion and returned the favor on UK. Shurmur looks like he is a winner and will have a great future at Vanderbilt.  


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