Nik's Commodore Keys: Kentucky

After a disappointing loss at Florida, Vandy (5-4 2-4 SEC) will attempt to bounce back with a home game against Kentucky (6-3 2-3 SEC). Vanderbilt can become bowl eligible with a win over the Cats, who have back to back losses to Florida and Mississippi State. What will the Commodores need to do to score a win over the Cats and get their most successful season since 1982?

Pressure

      Vanderbilt has done a good job at getting pressure on quarterbacks. In Vandy's two Southeastern Conference wins, they have sacked the opposing quarterback 14 times. Vanderbilt needs that production from the strong defensive line anchored by Curtis Gatewood, Steven Stone, and Theo Horrocks. Linebackers Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs have also been productive in the pressure category. Andre Woodson, a projected all-SEC quarterback and first round draft pick, can not be given time to throw, or he will torch Vandy through the air and put up a lot of points. Woodson is a strong quarterback and possesses a really strong arm. Vandy needs to make him make poor decisions, and then the secondary must defend the Kentucky receivers, led by Keenan Burton and Dickey Lions, Jr. D.J. Moore must continue to prove himself a leader on defense and cover well. Vanderbilt needs to blitz safety Ryan Hamilton. Hamilton had a big sack against South Carolina, and offensive lines tend to let the safety get into the backfield. If Hamilton can play a big part in forcing a quick throw by Woodson, Vanderbilt could get bowl eligible with two games remaining. 

Mac

      After Chris Nickson was injured earlier this year, Mackenzie Adams took over the starting quarterback role. Adams has played very well at times, but has also made some poor decisions. Against Kentucky, who has a relatively weak defense, Vandy must expose that defense with pass plays. Adams, who is still recovering from a bruised sternum against Miami (OH), must make plays with his arm and his legs. A good runner, Adams must make big plays on his feet to keep the defense off balance.

Earl Bennett Show

      All-American receiver Earl Bennett has been relatively quiet this year. Part of that is due to Vanderbilt's lack of throwing the football, and also Sean Walker and George Smith have been making good plays this year. Bennett is the SEC's all time leading receiver and needs only 17 yards to break into the top 10 in receiving yards. Through the past couple of games, Bennett has only managed 102 yards. Earl Bennett, who originally committed to Kentucky, has torched the Cats each of the past two seasons. In 2005, Bennett caught 5 TD passes from former Vandy star Jay Cutler, in a game where Vandy's comeback fell short, and they lost 48-43, after being down 35-3 earlier in the game. Last year, Bennett had nearly 300 receiving yards against the Wildcats, and he will need another game filled with catches and scores in order for the Commodores to win.

Run Game

      Kentucky's running game is often overshadowed by their ground attack. The past couple of years, Kentucky's Rafael Little has torched the Commodores on the ground and in punt and kickoff returns. Although Kentucky's passing attack is the strength of their offense, Vandy needs to shut down the run in order to beat the Cats. 

Last Meeting: Kentucky 38 Vanderbilt 26 (2006 in Lexington) 


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