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Vanderbilt Report Card: Tennessee

The Vanderbilt Commodores fell to the Tennessee Volunteers 53-28 on Saturday in Knoxville. VandyMania.com's Don Yates grades the Commodores performance in several critical team areas.


Vanderbilt true freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed 15-of-34 passes for 209 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.  He completed scoring passes to Trent Sherfield (12 yards, 1st qtr), Steven Scheu (3 yards, 4th qtr) and Dallas Rivers (8 yards, 4th qtr). His first pass was an 11-yard completion to Trent Sherfield. Late in the first quarter he had a 36-yard completion to Caleb Scott. In the second quarter he had another 25-yard completion to Scott so to be clear a lot of his passing yardage was accumulated in the first half.  Sherfield led Vandy with six receptions for 85 yards.  Scheu had three catches for 22 yards and the TD in his final game as a Commodore.  Vandy's battered offensive line gave up four sacks. 


Vanderbilt gained 228 yards on 36 carries rushing the ball. Ralph Webb gained 149 yards on 21 carries (7.1 ypc).  He had a 50-yard run in the first quarter that set Vandy up for its first touchdown, a 7-yard run by Darrius Sims.  On Webb's run he was caught after about 30 yards but broke loose for another 20 or so yards. A not surprising bush league late hit by a UT player added on another 10 yards to Webb's run. Dallas Rivers gained 21 yards on four carries (5.2 ypc). Sims finished with 19 yards on three attempts (6.3 ypc).  Webb finishes the season with 1,152 yards rushing (4.2 ypc) with five TDs.


Vanderbilt's defenders allowed Vol quarterback Josh Dobbs to complete 13-of-21 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Backup QB Quinten Dormady came in late in the game and connected on 2-of-4 passes for another 52 yards. Dobbs found a wide open Von Pearson from 17 yards out to score the Vol's first touchdown of the game.  Late in the third quarter Dobbs found an open Pearson again in the same general area for a 5-yard score. Vanderbilt's pass defense was poor. Not one sack, not one quarterback hurry, not one interception or even a pass breakup. 


Derek Mason's statement that "it was a bad day at the office" was an understatement.  The Commodores were bad in virtually every defensive and special teams area but pitiful in rushing defense. A big reason for that was missed tackles and there were a bunch of those.  UT gained 338 yards on 52 carries (6.4 ypc).  Many of the Vol runs were straight up the middle.  Jalen Hurd led the Vols with 19 carries for 120 yards (6.3 ypc).  Backup Alvin Kamara nearly eclipsed 100 yards with 99 yards on 16 totes (6.2 ypc).  Quarterback Josh Dobbs was elusive gaining 93 yards on 11 carries (8.5 ypc).  Many of his runs were long scrambles when he was unable to find an open receiver.  On his 6-yard scoring run there were at least two missed tackles.


For the second time this season Vandy gave up a punt return for a touchdown. One is way too many. No field goals were attempted, the same number as the previous four games.  Tommy Openshaw had a decent day punting averaging 46.6 yards on seven attempts with a long of 51 yards. It wasn't Openshaw's fault on the long punt return, just non-existent tackling.  The Vanderbilt staff was so concerned with Evan Berry's kick returning ability that they conceded allowing UT to start drives at the UT 34, 41, 29, 49, 28, and 22. Vandy probably would have been better off booming the ball as far as possible and try to make a tackle rather than allow those short fields to the Vol offense. Darrius Sims had one punt return for 12 yards and two kickoff returns for 50 yards, and a long of 34. 


Defensively the team looked totally unprepared for the Vols.  Players were in the wrong place and missing tackles, again and again. For the second year in a row we see a long punt return by UT which blows the game wide open in the Vols favor. The officiating was terrible but Mason looked silly challenging an official’s spot early in the second half. Everyone in the stadium knew that wasn't going anywhere. Late in the third quarter, trailing 43-14, Vandy faced a fourth-and-1 at its own 25. The Vols had scored on two straight possessions and the defense had only rarely been able to stop the Vols. I thought that was a good time to either go for it or run a fake punt. Instead we punt and they drive down and score again. Sometimes you have to roll the dice to have a chance. 


Some strides made by the offense.  Shurmur looked sharp at times and he continues to be the best hope for the team heading into the future. If Vandy can shore up the offensive line, a sharp passing Shurmur combined with the running threat of Webb could lead to a more potent offense.  Defensively the Commodores have regressed over the latter part of the season, starting with the Kentucky game. The defenders had their worst day by far of the season on Saturday in Knoxville.  



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