Three Keys: Vanderbilt vs. MTSU

The Vanderbilt Commodores host Middle Tennessee on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores must defeat the Blue Raiders to keep their bowl hopes alive. Here are your three keys to a Vandy victory.

Key No. 1: Frustrate Brent Stockstill 

Quarterback Brent Stockstill is one of the most prolific passers in college football. As a freshman last season he passed for over 4,000 yards.  In the Blue Raider's opening 55-0 win over Alabama A&M last week he completed 30-of-36 passes for five touchdowns. Incredibly, all five TD passes came in the first half.  Vanderbilt must frustrate him early and throw his rhythm off.  Last season the 'Dore defense played well against him but he's now more experienced and polished with a spring practice and another fall camp under his belt. An early interception or sack could pave the way to victory but the Black Death Defense cannot let up on Stockstill or he will burn them. 

Key No. 2: Vandy runs over Blue Raiders

Ball control is important in this game. The fewer opportunities Stockstill and company have the better Vandy's chances of winning.  Against South Carolina, Vandy gained 169 yards on the ground. This week the target should at least 250 yards or more yards.  Chew up clock, score, and keep the VU defense off the field as much as possible. Sure there are going to have to be some passes but keep them few and far between the runs. Let Ralph Webb, Khari Blasingame and their buddies wear down MTSU and win this game for Vanderbilt. 

Key No. 3: Coaches roll the dice

It's okay to not be reckless but sometimes you have to roll the dice to improve your team's chances of winning. Andy Ludwig knows how to run trick plays, we saw that last season against Kentucky. The Vandy staff should work in at least one gamble play in this game. Either a fake field goal or punt, an onside kick, go for it on fourth down in your own territory, or an actual trick play. Yes, it might not work but if it doesn't you still have a fine defense to pick up the slack. Last year's trick play against UK proved to be the difference in the game. Had the staff cowered from taking a chance there the Wildcats would have likely rallied and won, just like South Carolina did on Thursday.

Other keys to consider are be motivated, special teams get it done, VU fans don’t abandon the team, wide receivers don’t drop balls, continue winning turnover battle and VU coaches out-coach Middle. 

Vanderbilt was an improved team in the opener, we just don’t realize it because they lost.  Zero turnovers, a stronger running game and a defense that looks like it is picking up right where it left off last season, all indicate an improved team. The Commodores need to keep their focus and work to improve. Every opponent won't have a kicker who can make 55-yard field goals.  

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