Morris: Running game must click

The Commodores get back to SEC play this weekend with a trip to Jordan-Haire Stadium to take on the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers will be riding high after a big upset of the Florida Gators in The Swamp last Saturday. The Commodores must weather the early storm of emotion that is sure to be running through the stadium.

They will need to make some plays early in the game to quiet the crowd.

The key for Vanderbilt's offense will be the running game. Jeff Jennings should be able to go on Saturday. He provides a great compliment to Cassen Jackson-Garrison in the Vanderbilt backfield. The Commodores are going to need to control the clock to keep the Auburn offense off of the field. This game is huge for the offensive line. If they can push Auburn's defensive line off of the ball, it will allow the running backs to have success on the ground.

Chris Nickson will also be very important on Saturday. He obviously needs to take care of the ball better than he did last week. The key to beating Auburn is not giving them turnovers. Their turnover difference is plus seven in their two wins and minus nine in their two losses. Nickson will need to make good decisions when he drops back to pass. The Commodores will also need Nickson to get some big yards running the ball. Nickson's running ability could be the difference for the Commodores on Saturday.

The pass rush will be the key for Vanderbilt's defense on Saturday. Auburn's quarterback, Brandon Cox, is a very good passer if he is allowed to sit in the pocket and throw. Cox becomes quite a bit more vulnerable if he is pressured. Vanderbilt's defensive line is very important to this game. If they can consistently get in Cox's face, it will force him to make bad decisions that result in big plays for the Commodores' defense.

Vanderbilt defensive coordinator, Bruce Fowler, will probably use some blitzes to make Cox feel uncomfortable. Jonathan Goff was a lot more active in the pass rush against Eastern Michigan than he had been in any other game. Look for this to continue on Saturday. If Cox is always looking over his shoulder to see where the pressure is coming from, it will force him to make some throws he does not want to make.

Special teams will also play a huge role in this game. Vanderbilt needs to have good coverage on the kickoffs and punts. They have not had any coverage breakdowns on special teams since the Alabama game. This trend needs to continue on Saturday for the Commodores to have a chance to win. The Commodores will also need a big return on a punt from Earl Bennett or a big return on a kickoff from D.J. Moore to give the offense a short field.

Road games are always tough in the SEC and Saturday's game will be no exception. If the Commodores can weather the early emotion from the Auburn crowd, they will be able to keep the game close. Close games are won with the running game and good defense. If the Commodores have success in both of these areas, they will come back from Auburn with a 4-1 record.


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