The Vanderbilt Commodores saw their bowl chances go down the drain on Saturday night with a brutal 45-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers on a windy and chilly senior night at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw for 348 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Running back Ralph Webb finished his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium with 55 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for his career, just the ninth running back in SEC history to accomplish this feat.
“Just one of those games where it was ugly,” head coach Derek Mason said. “First half was full of penalties, each team really took its turn. I thought our guys came in at halftime, had to regroup, talked about what we needed to do, I thought we went out in the right way. This group did not roll over. This group went out and played. We held them to 10 points in the second half and had opportunities to score points. Any time you’re playing from behind, it makes it extremely tough.”
Vanderbilt’s defense needed to play their best game of the season, and their first drive was anything but that. Missouri went 71 yards in just eight plays to score to open the game. Wide receiver Albert Okwuegbunam caught the touchdown pass on third-and-goal, grabbing the ball over Oren Burks, who couldn’t get his hands up to bat the pass down.
Their start on offense wasn’t much better, if not worse. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur saw his second pass of the game intercepted by former Vanderbilt commit Adam Sparks. However, after that, the defense started to settle in, coming up with some big stops on the next few drives. The offense had a few drives stall around midfield at the first quarter wound down, a trend that has plagued the Commodores all season.
The Commodore defense found themselves falling into some old habits in the early minutes of the second quarter. Two offsides jumps by defensive linemen led to free plays for Mizzou, and their second one was a deep bomb that got them into the red zone, where Larry Rountree III punched it in for a 14-0 Tiger lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Vanderbilt. After a clutch defensive stop on fourth-and-one, Brandon Lee picked off a Shurmur pass and took it 42 yards to the house to make it 21-0. Then, defensive back Taurean Ferguson slipped and fell on Mizzou’s next possession, leaving Richaud Floyd wide open for an easy touchdown.
Richaud then added a 74-yard punt return touchdown to put the game on ice for Mizzou before they even hit halftime.
Once again, the game snowballed away from the Commodores. That seemed to be a theme all season for Vanderbilt.
“Somewhat, but I mean, this team, we never quit fighting, that’s one of the things I love about my teammates, man, we never quit fighting,” senior linebacker Oren Burks said. “Today, we weren’t able to fight enough.”
Now, this group of seniors will face the prospect of not going to a bowl game for their last game as Commodores. Mason was gutted for that group.
“For those 20 seniors, I’m extremely disappointed for them,” he said. “Just need to make a few more plays to keep ourselves in it, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Vanderbilt managed to march down the field for a quick score at the opening of the second half thanks to a Ralph Webb one-yard run, but Mizzou responded with a field goal drive to keep up their scoring. Shurmur delivered his first touchdown pass of the game on a quick strike to Caleb Scott to continue to chew in to the deficit.
The Commodores were knocking on the doorstep yet again as the third quarter wound down, but when fourth down came around, they kicked the field goal instead of going for the touchdown, keeping the score at 38-17 at the end of the quarter. Vanderbilt had another chance on the goal line in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert on fourth down for a score.
Okwuegbunam added another touchdown on a 57-yard dart by Lock to prolong Vanderbilt’s misery.
Vanderbilt will look to salvage some dignity in Knoxville next Saturday when they take on Tennessee.