The Dores and the Redhawks played in Nashville last season with the Commodores coming away with a 24-13 victory. VU held the Redhawks to just 26 net yards rushing on 27 carries on that day. The Redhawks will be looking for someone to step forward in the running game with the loss of their top three rushers to graduation.
The Redhawks return redshirt junior quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh who threw for 2,431 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season including 212 yards and one touchdown during the game against the Commodores last season. The Redhawks also return their top two receivers from last season, Dustin Woods and Eugene Harris. The Men in Black and Gold did a pretty good job against both of those guys last season holding Harris to four catches for 54 yards and Woods to 2 catches on 16 yards. The key to victory Thursday night will be containing the experienced passing attack.
Vandy had a lot of success on the ground last year against the Redhawks totaling 290 yards on 54 attempts. They will probably look to establish the run game early in this game as well with the questions that still remain about who will play quarterback. Bobby Johnson's bunch have two very experienced, very talented running backs in Jeff Jennings and Jared Hawkins. Both backs had a good offseason and are expected to share the load this season. It is crucial for this team to move the ball on the ground early to open things up for whoever ends up playing quarterback. A lot of the ground success will depend on the play of an offensive line that will feature five new starters.
Vandy will not only be looking for someone to step up at quarterback, they will also be looking for a receiver to step in and fill the void left by Earl Bennett leaving for the NFL Draft and the injury to George Smith. D.J. Moore is expected to see a lot of time on offense, and Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said on the radio that he will be doing a lot more this season than just running the jet sweep. Moore will be the difference maker for this team. Look for him to return punts and kickoffs in addition to starting at cornerback and playing some receiver. The Commodores also moved Jamie Graham from corner to wide receiver to help share the load.
This is about as big as an opening game can be for the Commodores. They absolutely have to win this game if they have any postseason aspirations, and the Redhawks are no easy test. If they can establish the ground game and limit the passing attack of Raudabaugh, they should come back to Nashville with a win.