Three Keys Reviewed: Middle Tennessee

Vanderbilt outran Middle Tennessee 47-24 on Saturday to improve to 1-1 on the season. Before the game established three keys for the Commodores to defeat the Blue Raiders. We will now review those three keys.

Key No. 1: Frustrate Brent Stockstill  PASS

The Commodore defense did a fine job on Stockstill by stopping drives and getting turnovers.  Stockstill did complete an impressive 38 of 65 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns but the Dore defense did enough to keep things from getting out of control.  Stockstill took several hard hits and was knocked down multiple times.   Oren Burks had a field day on Stockstill with three pass breakups, an interception, a QB hurry and sack of the talented Blue Raider sophomore.   

Key No. 2: Vandy runs over Blue Raiders PASS

The goal was 250 or more yards but even though the Dores gained just 231 yards, they still get a “pass” here because they scored five touchdowns by running the ball.   Once the Vandy passing game got going in the second half by rolling out Kyle Shurmur, Vandy’s running attack was virtually unstoppable.  Ralph Webb made some amazing runs including a 49-yard scamper and at least two plays where he leaped over defenders for yardage.  Webb finished with 211 yards on 29 (7.3 ypc) carries for two TDs.  Khari Blasingame didn’t have one of his better days gaining just 19 yards on six carries and fumbling but he did score a pair of touchdowns to give him three on the young season.  Dallas Rivers added 3-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter.  

Key No. 3: Coaches roll the dice PASS

The Vandy coaches rolled the dice twice during game.   We saw them go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Middle Tennessee 43-yard line.  Shurmur completed a 4-yard pass to freshman fullback Bailey McElwain for a first down.  Later, on the same drive, the Commodores faced a fourth-and-7 at the Middle 36 and the coaches rolled the dice once again as Tommy Openshaw took off running instead of punting. Unfortunately, he was tackled for a loss and the drive ended, but it’s a start.  Hopefully, we’ll see more chance taking by the VU staff down the road.   A power running offense, like Stanford had a few years back, would be great to have but it’s hard to do in the SEC if you don’t have a top-notch offensive line.   I’m not saying Vandy’s O-line is poor, they did a great job on Middle Tennessee and weren’t the reason the team lost to South Carolina but they aren’t in the upper cusp of the SEC in O-line quality quite yet.  

This was a wonderful win for the Commodores.  Same Ole Vandy would have lost this trap game.  In my head-to-head comparison between Vanderbilt and Middle I initially gave MTSU the edge in coaching but then I thought, “Derek Mason is 1-0 versus Rick Stockstill,” so I changed it to a Vandy edge.  Good thing I did that.  For what it’s worth, I believe this MTSU team is every bit as good as the three MTSU teams that beat Vandy back in the early 2000s.  Mason ought to get some credit for winning two against the Blue Raiders.  I remember those two losses to Middle back in the day and it was very depressing, even though I have nothing against Middle Tennessee and wish them well when they aren’t playing Vandy.. unlike another school in the Eastern region of Tennessee.   

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