Commodore Brunch: Vanderbilt drubs Alabama A&M going into tough stretch

Photo by Claire Barnett.

The warmup games are over.

Now, the real season begins.

The Vanderbilt Commodores took down the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 42-0 in a rousing performance in front of the home fans (more on those home fans in just a bit).

Kyle Shurmur and the Vanderbilt offense seemed to pick up right where they left off against MTSU, and the defense continued to show how much better they are from last season.

Here’s your Commodore Brunch menu for week two:

Offense shows fireworks

Once again, Vanderbilt’s offense has fans asking “Who are you people?!”

A passing offense that was apathetic for most of last season has come alive early in 2017. Shurmur has thrown for seven touchdown passes in the first two games of the season, and is showing how much he’s improved.

He didn’t have an incompletion until the second half. And even then, most of his three incompletions were dropped passes.

“I think, for him, just hit footwork and his ability to deliver the ball,” Mason said on the improvements in Shurmur’s game. “Kyle has a quick release, and when you look at his footwork from 2016 to 2017, he’s moving his feet in the direction where he needs to throw. That’s where the accuracy comes from. He’s throwing from a better platform, he’s not falling backwards, he’s not leaning, he’s stepping into throws.”

Meanwhile, running back Ralph Webb ran for just 54 yards, his second-consecutive game with less than 100 yards rushing. Alabama A&M looked to stack the box to stop the run, much like MTSU did.

It may not  be a cause for concern quite yet, and by no means has Vanderbilt’s running game gotten worse, but eventually, “they’re stacking the box” is going to become a thin excuse for a regressed running game. The offense may become imbalanced in the opposite direction.

Vanderbilt didn’t need their running game in this one, but in the future, they might.

“Listen, it’s been about teams loading the box, it’s still going to be about teams loading the box. But again, when Kyle starts out 12-12 for 175 yards, I think we’ll take it. Again, if they’re going to load the box, we’re going to find the matchups.”

A look into the future

Vanderbilt fans got a look at the future of Commodore football in the second half of this game with players like quarterback Deuce Wallace and running back Jamauri Wakefield entering the game.

Wallace, a native of Sevier County, Tennessee, went 3-7 for 19 yards, while Wakefield led the team in rushing with 64 yards on 15 carries.

As Mason put it, the future is very bright for this team, especially at the running back position.

“Jamauri is what I thought he was, he’s a good running back, he’s just young,” Mason said. “He made some cuts tonight that make you see why we think the future is bright here at Vanderbilt.

“We’ve got backs. We’ve got back on backs on backs. So, that’s a good situation to have if you’re a team that likes to run the football.”

With Khari Blasingame, Wakefield and transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the fold for 2018, Vanderbilt could be able to move on from Webb fairly quickly.

As for Wallace, he won’t likely see the starting role until 2019 when Shurmur graduates, but he showed some promise.

“As I look at Deuce, I thought Deuce came out and actually worked to manage the offense,” Mason said. “When he looks at it tonight or tomorrow, he’ll see some things that he could be better with: sniffing out the pressure, being able to realize how to get into the right way, but you know what, the only way you do that is to get reps.”

The crowd question

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Nashville, and a perfect day for football.

The crowd may not have shown it, but I don’t blame them.

Many on social media were quick to harp on the Vanderbilt fans for a low turnout, especially the student turnout. However, for most of the game, the student section was large and rowdy, consisting mainly of freshmen who participated in the Anchor Dash.

Put yourself in a student’s shoes: if I’ve just been tailgating and having fun with my friends, am I going to go watch a game that I already know the outcome of?

Some also lamented how many students left at halftime. To which I say: if this were a Titans game and the home team was up by that margin against a team that bad, you would have left too.

Quite simply, the idea that this turnout will give fuel to the off-campus stadium plan is ludicrous and completely misses the point.

If Vanderbilt officials look at that turnout and say “well, they won’t come anyways, so who cares if we move the stadium?”, then, well…God help us all.

With two marquee matchups in the next two weeks against Kansas State and Alabama, attendance should be the least of anyone’s worries.

Don’t throw your mind through the ringer trying to examine the implications of attendance numbers at a 42-0 game in September.

Come on, people.

Vanderbilt has Kansas State next weekend at home as their gauntlet of ranked teams begins.

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