The 2-9 Vanderbilt Commodores look to salvage a little pride at the end of a long season by taking care of the Tennessee Vols (6-5) in their rivalry clash. Here are the three keys.
By Steve Wright
1 – Keep it close
The Vols put up 60 points last week, the second time this season that they have hit the 60-points plateau. The Josh Heupel offensive scheme calls for tempo at a rate no one else in the SEC – or even the country plays at – which is an issue for the ‘Dores. One thing Vanderbilt has always been able to do, however, is play the Vols close. Even in the Peyton Manning years – years where the Vols were at the top and the ‘Dores at the bottom – the games were close. This means something to the people in and around Nashville and while Vandy can’t run down Tennessee if they get away, keeping it close could work.
2 – Fourth quarter luck
Simply put, the Commodores haven’t had any all season. An insane pick in the red zone last week kept Ole Miss up by two scores with Mike Wright and Vanderbilt driving. The Mizzou and South Carolina games could both have fallen on the Commodores side of victory with more luck – along with better play calling and execution late. Teams mired in losing streaks don’t get lucky and that is where Vandy is right now.
3 – Non-offensive scores
Vandy isn’t getting enough out of its offense to run with Tennessee. Hendon Hooker and company on offense will take shot after shot, but some of those balls will be ones that the Vandy defensive backs can make plays on. The ‘Dores need Hooker and Tennessee to have a bad day at the office. This includes multiple turnovers and forcing the Vols to play from behind. This is a team that – because of their tempo – can go long periods without doing much if a couple of three-and-outs are forced on offense. Taking the ball away and scoring – or a massive special teams play – would help shift momentum towards the road team here.