The Vanderbilt Commodores need to bounce back after a physically draining loss to Kentucky last week. Their opponents on Saturday are the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Stop the run
The Bucs are a 3-8 FCS team that are 1-7 in conference play. They have the 84th ranked offense in the FCS and they average 356.8 yards per game. They are not an explosive team that will run a lot of spread and try to beat Vandy with their tempo. They would rather grind out a game behind their running backs – Quay Holmes has 1,133 yards on the season, Jacob Saylors 602 – and use the pass to supplement that rushing attack. This is not a team that loses yardage when running the ball, they are just not a team that will rip off big plays either. Vandy will need to out grind the Bucs on the ground.
Is there a passing game?
The Vanderbilt passing game issues don’t make much sense. There is talent at receiver and it seems like there are options at quarterback that would work, but to say things aren’t clicking would be a colossal understatement. Vandy has thrown for less than 90 yards in each of the last three games. That isn’t good enough to win at any level unless you are a pure option team. Vanderbilt needs to find a passing game that works to take some of the pressure off of Ke’Shawn Vaughn and allow him space to run for the first time in a month.
Don’t be fooled by their record
Vanderbilt isn’t good enough to be complacent this season, but the ‘Dores need to be ready to play hard on Saturday. Yes, the Bucs are 3-8, but they lost seven of those eight games by seven points or less. That means that their offense finds enough to be competitive in every game, but that they don’t have any ability to close things out. This is a team that has been outscored 89-62 in the fourth quarter, but Vanderbilt has hardly excelled in that period of the game either. Just don’t expect a walkover here.