The Commodore defense barely missed a shut out by giving up a late touchdown pass to Eastern Michigan's Travis Lewis from Andy Schmitt. That score cut the Vanderbilt lead to 20-7. The defense did not let the Eagles gain any momentum by forcing turnovers on the next two possessions. Vanderbilt's defense is currently ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 points allowed per game), total defense (279 yards allowed per game), and 11th nationally in passing defense (157.5 yards allowed per game).
On a night when the defense played one of their best games in years, the offense struggled mightily. Chris Nickson had problems reading the Eagles' defense. He threw 4 interceptions on 28 passing attempts. The passing game seemed out of rhythm at times throughout the night. Two of the interceptions Nickson threw were the result of misreading the defense. The other two were throws that were off the mark. Nickson is going to have to improve his defensive recognition and his accuracy in the coming games. He has shown that he can do both of those things. He should be able to get things turned around this weekend against Auburn.
It was not all struggles for the Vanderbilt offense however. Earl Bennett had nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Sean Walker added four catches for 60 yards and a score. While Nickson struggled through the air, he had his best game of the year on the ground carrying 12 times for 72 yards. Senior running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison also had 23 carries for 88 yards.
Chris Nickson will need to bounce back next week in a tough environment. Vanderbilt should be able to put the EMU performance behind them because, at the end of the day, they got the win. All of the wins are not going to be pretty; the most important thing is winning the games that you are supposed to win. Vanderbilt teams have not been good at doing that in past seasons, but they have accomplished that goal so far this season. Now they will need to find a win or two in games where the teams will be pretty evenly matched.
Vanderbilt came into this season with one goal in mind, making a bowl game. They are half way to that goal with three wins in four games. Defense has been the key for the Commodores so far this season. If the defense can continue to play as well as they have been, the Commodores will have success in SEC play.