Key No. 1: PUT THE BOOM ON MIKE WHITE PASS
This was close to being a 'push' but the Commodore defense did a pretty good on Mike White. He completed 22-of-39 passes for yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Vandy's defense harassed White the entire game, sacking him once, intercepting him another time, and breaking up his passes an incredible nine times. There were also three quarterback hurries. Nifae Lealao led the way breaking up two passes at the line. He was also part of the fracas that ended the game with Vandy on top when White's throw was either tipped by a player or bounced off a helmet on the final play of overtime. One very questionable review was on WKU's first drive when Vandy had apparently returned an incomplete backwards pass for a very long touchdown. Although it appeared to be inconclusive on replays and the call on the field was a touchdown, the Conference USA review official reversed the backward pass call, negating the VU touchdown.
Key No. 2: COMMODORE OFFENSE RUNS WILD PASS
This was kind of like Key No.1, close to being a 'push" because the Commodores only gained 110 yards during the game. However, the 'Dores did score three rushing touchdowns, all by Ralph Webb, who is the SEC's top running back in yardage gained. The fact is though, 110 against WKU's defense is not bad. That's about their average for the season and Alabama was only able to gain 126 yards against them in Tuscaloosa a couple weeks ago. In retrospect, I probably should have made this key "VU passing game explodes" due to WKU's more shaky pass defense. That would have been a definite 'pass' but the 'Dores won with a nice balance of both rushing and passing along with winning the turnover battle.
Key No. 3: BE AGGRESSIVE AND INNOVATIVE PASS
No, Derek Mason is still no riverboat gambler but he did show more competitiveness than in some past games. For instance, nearing the end of the first half he called timeouts in order to have time for one last drive. That drive was bogged down after a sack of Kyle Shurmer, but he at least tried to do something instead of wasting an opportunity to score. There were a couple times when Mason might have gone for it on fourth down. One was a fourth-and-1 at the VU 10 which would have been pretty brazen. Another was on a fourth-and-9 at the WKU 34. That one probably would have made more sense. VU punted instead for a touchback so only a 14-yard difference. The Commodores did pass on first down 13 times out of 31 firsts. Of course, four of those were on that final drive of regulation when their backs were against the wall.
This was a big win for Mason and the Commodores. Many Vandy analysts believed that Mason would not have been retained following the season if he lost this game. However, he is still clinging to life after the first four games of the season. Vandy might be able to pull off a stunner if they can catch Florida in a trap game on Saturday. Vandy might have beat them last year in Gainesville, if not for a shanked punt and a frightful offense. Florida is coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee and will host LSU the week after Vandy. This could indeed be a trap game for UF but Jim McElwain is a winner and will likely have his guys focused.
Saturday's game kicks off at 11 am central time and can be seen on the SEC Network.