Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Rice

The game is over now: Vanderbilt 36 Rice 17. VandyMania.com's armchair quarterback analyzes every element of the Commodores' performance and assigns a grade to each area.


Vanderbilt
36

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Rice
17

AREA
GRADE
COMMENTS
PASSING OFFENSE
B+
Major improvement here from the past couple weeks. It helps that the team was able to finally get some dry weather in which to hone their passing skills. Larry Smith looked like an improved quarterback. He completed over 50 percent of his passes for 268 yards and just one interception. The just one interception is big considering he threw 41 times (23 completions). He had a fine looking 54-yard pass to Udom Umoh in the second half that will surely make opponents think twice about stacking the box anymore. He's still is a work in progress, he needs to further improve in his accuracy and try to settle down when the blitz is coming. Of course, that's easy for us to say, we aren't the ones with 275 pound defensive linemen coming at us to rip our heads off. Part of it is that the offensive line needs to block better. The three sacks of Smith by Rice were too many. John Cole had a breakout game and caught 7 passes for 95 yards. VU needs a couple of the receivers to step up and be Earl Bennett type go-to-guys. It looks like Cole might be one of them. Who will be the other? Umoh or one of the tight ends?
RUSHING OFFENSE
A-
After a 30-yard nightmare against MSU Vandy seemed to be back to their usual strong running ways. It helped having veteran Jared Hawkins back because he can not only provide leadership but he is a experienced blocker as well as solid runner. Hawkins finished with 61 yards rushing on 11 carries. I think we'll be seeing a more of him running the ball over the coming weeks. Warren Norman had another solid game rushing. He picked up over 100 yards (119) for the second time this season. He's a breakaway threat that Vandy can't afford not to keep utilizing throughout the season.
PASSING DEFENSE
A
Excellent work here! Keep it up! Vandy's defense made life miserable for a passing team by limiting them to just 12 completions in 32 attempts for a paltry 122 yards. The Commodores picked off 4 passes (Myron Lewis *2*, Patrick Benoist and Eddie Foster) The Vandy defensive line also made life hard for Rice by sacking Owl quarterback 4 times on the night. Defensive end Theron Kadri led the way with 2 sacks.
RUSHING DEFENSE
B
Vandy gave up 160 yards rushing on 40 attempts. The one serious blemish that prevented an 'A' was a 58-yard run by Charles Ross early in the first quarter. Patrick Benoist led the way with 5.5 tackles and his low tackle number (for a leading tackler) reflects the fact that all 11 Vandy defenders were working well together as a unit.
SPECIAL TEAMS
A
Break it out for Ryan Fowler! He made field goals of 37, 33, and 23 yards. He also boomed several kickoffs for touch backs. The Commodore team desperately needs this type of performance from their young kicker. Brett Upson continues to impress as the VU punter. He had 8 punts for a 43 yard average. One of his punts went for 54 yards and three were down inside the 20.
COACHING
A
Great work by the coaches getting the offense back in sync. Instead of allowing the players to pout about a bad game against MSU, they got to work in practice to fix the problem. The increased the tempo and added a few schemes to help improve the offense's chances of advancing the ball. The 32-yard reverse score by Cole was an example of the coaches putting in a scheme that set the offense up for success. The coaches also allowed Smith to pass often which should help build not only his confidence but the confidence of his receivers.
OVERALL GRADE
B+
A major improvement over the last two games. Sure it was a non-SEC opponent but the team could easily have been caught moping over a tough loss and then suffered another devastating loss. Now the Commodores need to take advantage of practice this week to further fine tune both their offense and defense. Hopefully the team will have a couple starters back from the injury list for Ole Miss. Ole Miss will likely be Vandy's toughest opponent so far this season. Although the Rebs were shocked by South Carolina on Thursday you can bet they've already been hard at work getting ready for Vandy. It's a must win for them just like Rice was for Vanderbilt. With more smart coaching and solid play the Commodores can pick up victory number three. 3-2 heading into Army? We'll take it!

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