Vanderbilt forced four turnovers on the night and made several big plays. Freshman safety Reshard Langford was in the middle of most of them, with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. Oh yeah, and he also made nine tackles and had a bone-rattling hit over the middle to break up a pass.
"We stressed gang-tackling, forcing turnovers and the defense being an intimidating presence," said safety Kelechi Ohanaja. "We had a lot of big hits out there. We wanted to tell everybody we're not scared of them."
The Commodores eventually wore down in the fourth quarter, but that was more of a factor of time and poor field position than anything else. The Vanderbilt offense gave the defense no help, and the result was a two-touchdown fourth quarter for the LSU offense.
"We know we still have a lot of work to do," Ohanaja said. "We still gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter. We have to win the fourth quarter. We know we can play with them. LSU has a lot of speed, but we felt like we played with them."
On the other side of the ball, LSU manhandled Vanderbilt along the line, getting pressure on Cutler all night. The LSU defensive backs smothered Commodore receivers, and the LSU linebackers broke through on blitzes and dominated the Vanderbilt running game. It added up to a season-low 138 yards, 40 of which came on the game's final, meaningless play.
"We were sending a lot of guys blitzing and getting after (Cutler)," said safety LaRon Landry. "That is why he was rattled. At the beginning he was mobile, but once we got him a few times, he slowed down."
Other teams have had a similar strategy to slow down Cutler and the Dores, who were ranked No. 2 in the SEC in total offense prior to the LSU game and now are No. 7. But no one executed as well and brought as much pressure as the Tigers.
"They did a good job of covering up the receivers on the short routes and we couldn't protect long enough on the long routes," Johnson said. "We've played against a team that blitzed us every time, and that was Arkansas. We did a very good job. We're capable of doing it. I think our confidence kept going down and down the longer the game went on offensively."
That confidence is not likely to skyrocket with No. 5 Georgia next up on the docket. Georgia held Tennessee to 358 yards in a 27-14 victory and stands in first place in the SEC East with an undefeated record. Cutler has a reputation of always having confidence no matter what the situation, and the coaches plan on using that this week in a positive way.
"We don't have to worry about Jay's confidence," Johnson said. "We'll try to get Jay to help us with the rest of the guys."
Georgia figures to bring a lot of pressure on Cutler, and Cutler is ready for it.
"That is what I'd do," he said. "That's what I'd do. They presented a lot of problems for us. They gave our receivers fits, gave our offensive linemen problems. They got after me a lot. I would expect a lot of the same from Georgia."
The Commodores are hoping for a different result.
Bill Trocchi is the Interactive Editor for Athlon Sports.
Reshard Langford had a good night vs. LSU. (VM/ Stan Jones)