Nik's Commodore Keys – Mississippi State

Following a tough loss at LSU, the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-1, 0-1 SEC) will come back to Nashville to take on first year coach Dan Mullen's Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 SEC), who will also look to rebound from a loss to Auburn last week. This might be a must win game for the Dores, if they want to make back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history.

So what will they have to do to take home the W?

Catch the Ball

Vanderbilt did an atrocious job of catching the football.  Vanderbilt appears to have solved its quarterback crisis, and Larry Smith is throwing the ball with a lot of poise and power.  Unfortunately, his receivers can't seem to fulfill their end of the bargain.  Senior receiver Alex Washington needs to step up as a leader of this receiving corps and start hauling in some catches.  Despite being the leader of this group, Washington dropped several passes, including one that slipped through his hands into the hands of an LSU defender for Larry Smith's second career interception.  Colin Ashley, John Cole, and tight ends Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan must continue to step up this offense to be successful.

Running Game

For once, Vanderbilt seems to have a great running game, led by freshman tailback Zac Stacy.  A big, athletic and experienced offensive line doesn't hurt either.  With the possibility of having senior starter Jared Hawkins back, this ground game could get even better.  Keenard Reeves and Warren Norman seem to be locked into a battle for reserve playing time, and both have done well in game action so far.  They may both get looks against a Mississippi State defense that surrendered over 300 rushing yards to Auburn in a 49-24 loss.


Vanderbilt saw two season ending injuries.  All-SEC candidate for safety Ryan Hamilton, along with sophomore offensive lineman James Williams, both went down against LSU.  Caleb Welchans will have to do a better job in the trenches for the Dores, and Joel Caldwell seems like the logical choice to replace Hamilton.  Caldwell is also a fifth year senior with plenty of starting experience, so he should be able to do a pretty good job replacing Hamilton.  Both of these reserves are very talented, but they are replacing very good impact players for the Commodores and must do their job to see that there is no real drop off.


Mississippi State leads the overall series 11-7-2.  The series is tied 5-5-2 in Nashville.  Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson is 1-2 against the Bulldogs.  Bulldog Coach Dan Mullen has not faced the Dores as a head coach

First Meeting: Vanderbilt 61 Mississippi State 0 (1904)

Last Meeting: Mississippi State 17 Vanderbilt 14 (2008 in Starkville)

Last Meeting in Nashville: Vanderbilt 31 Mississippi State 13 Top Stories