Nik's Commodore Keys: Eastern Michigan

After handling Ole Miss 31-17, Vanderbilt (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hits the turf again after an off week to take on Eastern Michigan (2-2 1-1 MAC). With high hopes of fans, coaches, and players on the line, Vanderbilt will continue their season hoping for a bowl bid. Before thinking about a bowl game, Vanderbilt first must post a winning record.

Eastern Michigan provides an excellent opportunity for the Commodores to improve to 3-1 going into their first road game at Auburn.

Run the ball

      Last week marked a marquee week for the Commodores as they compiled 184 rushing yards against Ole Miss, highlighted by a 119 yard, 3 touchdown performance by Cassen Jackson-Garrison. Against Howard, Eastern Michigan allowed 434 yards, including 257 yards rushing. Eastern Michigan's defense is led by junior Daniel Holtzclaw, who had 19 tackles including one for a loss against Howard. Vanderbilt needs to continue their rushing attack. With Jeff Jennings healthy this week, Vanderbilt needs to take advantage of their strong offensive line and Eastern Michigan's poor run defense. Jared Hawkins can provide extra help running the football. Vanderbilt was especially productive running behind Chris Williams, SEC lineman of the week. Vandy must also be able to utilize Chris Nickson in the running game, like they did against Ole Miss.

Strong Secondary

      Vanderbilt must defend well in the passing department this week to improve to 3-1. Sophomore Andy Schmitt was 14-21 for 214 yards with 4 touchdowns in a 38-15 victory over visiting Howard. D.J. Moore, who has two interceptions this season, must continue ruthless coverage against Eastern Michigan's receiving corps. The Eagles have a balanced receiving corps, led by Jacory Stone, Travis LewisTyrone Burke also made a key catch along with Tyler Jones and Dwayne Priest. Vanderbilt must not give up the big plays against EMU. VU gave up a 36 yard pass and a 56 yard pass, both for touchdowns. These were the only Ole Miss touchdowns of the game. Reshard Langford will be a factor at safety, as will the VU defensive line, which aided in recording seven sacks against Ole Miss. Pressure will also be key. If Vanderbilt can continue to pressure Eastern Michigan, and force turnovers, Vandy should roll.

It'll be interesting to see if…

      Cassen Jackson Garrison will continue his running abilities. Eastern Michigan's has been suspect, at best, against the run this year. If Vandy's senior laden offensive line can continue to help Vandy pound it out on the ground, Vandy can wear down EMU's defense and roll on to a victory before heading to Auburn. Cassen must continue to run the ball well. Against Ole Miss, he pounded out several long runs of 10 yards or more. If he can continue to run this well and avoid tacklers he can break the heart of EMU's defense. That should open up the Chris Nickson to Earl Bennett connection that Commodore fans have seen against Richmond and Ole Miss. With this connection, Vanderbilt can hope to run past the Eagles and get some younger players experience that they will need later on this season, as well as keep key players injury free heading into Auburn. 

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