Nik's Commodore Keys: Ole Miss

After a heartbreaking loss to Alabama, the Vanderbilt Commodores will try to get back on track this week, while trying to get to a bowl game for the first time in 25 years. Vanderbilt will have no easy games, as they continue Southeastern Conference play with Ole Miss coming to Nashville.

Defense Vandy, Defense!

      Once again, VU will have to play well on defense in order to beat the Rebels

(1-1 0-0 SEC). Ole Miss ran for 245 yards and passed for 305 yards in a 38-25 home loss to the Missouri Tigers. BJ Green-Ellis ran for 226 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers. However, the Ole Miss ground game has been inconsistent. They ran for only 74 yards against Memphis. Once again, Vandy's defensive front will have to step up to stop the run game. Vanderbilt gave up a lot of rushing yards to Alabama. In particular, Vanderbilt had trouble stopping the run to the right side of the field. Steven Stone, Marcus Buggs, and Curtis Gatewood will all have to play hard and well. Vanderbilt will need help from other less-known players, and must avoid sloppy tackling. 

      D.J. Moore will be a big factor in stopping the Rebel air attack from former walk-on Seth Adams. Adams threw for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns with one interception against Missouri. Expect D.J. Moore to match up with Mike Wallace, who caught seven passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Last week, Vanderbilt got good pressure on Jon Parker Wilson, causing him to complete only 50% of his passes along with an interception. Vanderbilt's defensive line and linebackers got good pressure on Wilson, but tended to allow long screen passes. They will have to have some players devoted to taking away the screen pass.

Special teams not so special

      The most important area for improvement for the Commodores is their special teams. Placekicking was not bad for the Dores, but they must improve kick-off and punt coverage. After allowing Alabama to return a punt to Vanderbilt's 1 yard line after the first failed drive, Vanderbilt must tighten up the screws. Ole Miss did not return any of the 5 Missouri punts, but they averaged 24 yards for each kickoff return. Vanderbilt will have to cover the right side of the field in particular on punts and kickoffs. Ole Miss has been sub par on special teams as well. Their placekicking has been inconsistent, as has their return games.

It'll be interesting to see…

      How well will Chris Nickson respond to last week's performance? Will he be able to recover from a sore hamstring that bothered him against Alabama? Will he be able to recover from a poor performance? Ole Miss's pass defense has been inconsistent. Against Memphis, they intercepted a pass (one of four interceptions) for a touchdown that gave them a 23-21 win over the tigers. However, against Missouri, Ole Miss gave up 330 yards and five touchdowns through the air. They also gave up 218 rushing yards against the tigers of Missouri. If Chris Nickson can play well, as well as get involved in the running game, Vanderbilt can put a lot of points on the board. If Jeff Jennings and Cassen Jackson-Garrison can provide a solid ground game, the Dores will put up a lot of offense.

Last Meeting: UM 17 VU 10 (2006 in Oxford, MS)

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