Morris: VU defense one of nation's best

Wins do not have to be pretty, and Vanderbilt's 24-13 win over the Miami Redhawks was anything but pretty. Vanderbilt was once again led to victory by their defense and rushing game. The win, no matter how ugly, does get the Commodores one win away from bowl eligibility.

The Commodores will have four chances to get that one win with the first chance coming this Saturday against the Florida Gators.

The Commodores defense is quickly proving that they are one of the best units in the entire country. They held a very potent Redhawks offense to just 238 total yards, including just 86 yards in the second half. The Redhawks rushing attack, which came into this game averaging 142.8 yards per game, was held to just 26 yards on 27 carries. They were in the face of Daniel Raudabaugh all day and ended the day with 5 sacks.

The most impressive thing about the performance of the defense on Saturday is the fact that they held the Redhawks to 13 points when the Vanderbilt offense turned the ball over four times. Three of those four turnovers were on consecutive plays. The Commodores' defense was also fantastic on third down. They held Miami to only five conversions on 15 attempts.

Earl Bennett became the Southeastern Conference all-time leader in career receptions on Saturday. That was about the only thing that was accomplished in the passing game. Vanderbilt ended up using three of the four quarterbacks on their roster after injuries to starter Mackenzie Adams and back-up Chris Nickson. The Vanderbilt passing game finished 11-19 for 121 yards with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.

It was not all bad for the Vanderbilt offense on Saturday. The Commodores' offensive line dominated the Redhawks front seven all day long. The proudest accomplishment for an offensive line is when your team can run the ball when everyone in the stadium knows you are going to run. In the fourth quarter it was obvious to everyone that the Commodores were not going to put the ball in the air, and they were still able to gain 112 yards on the ground in that quarter. Vanderbilt finished the game with 290 yards rushing on 54 attempts. While the Redhawks' offense was not successful on third down conversions, the Commodores' offense was very successful on third down conversion, converting 8 times in 12 attempts.

In the past, Vanderbilt teams have had huge let downs in games they should win. That has not been the case this year. Coach Bobby Johnson has done a great job of getting his guys ready to play every week, no matter who the opponent is. Vanderbilt has been able to take care of business in every game where they were the heavy favorite. That should give them some confidence heading into the most challenging stretch of their schedule. They should be able to use that momentum to find at least the one more win they need to become bowl eligible. If they can continue to play defense and run the ball like they did on Saturday, they will be able to easily surpass the six win mark.


Jared Hawkins (VM/Stan Jones)

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