Following an impressive week one smack down of Middle Tennessee State – the first opening game win for the Commodores under head coach Derek Mason – Vanderbilt will look to stay hot, as Alabama A&M comes to town this Saturday. Alabama A&M, an FCS school, lost their first game 38-7 to UAB. The Bulldogs struggled greatly on offense, only gaining 183 total offensive yards, so the Commodores will strive to continue to improve their stellar defense that only gave up six points and 74 rushing yards against MTSU. Here are three key matchups to watch this Saturday.
RB Ralph Webb vs. LB Kenneth Davis
Considered by many to be a premier running back in the SEC, and maybe even in the nation, Webb lived up to the hype against MTSU. The senior rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown, with three receptions for 104 yards, including a 73 yard catch-and-run touchdown. Webb’s value goes beyond just his ability to run the ball. He draws a huge amount of attention from opposing defenses, which opens up the passing game for quarterback Kyle Shurmur and his receivers.
On the flip side, Alabama A&M’s top linebacker Kenneth Davis will look to contain Webb this Saturday. Davis, a preseason first-team All-SWAC selection, led the team with eight solo tackles last week against UAB. He also had two sacks and three tackles for a loss, leading him to be named SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. The senior will look to build off his personal success from last week while trying to stop Webb in both the rushing and passing game.
ILB Oren Burks vs. QB Aqeel Glass
Burks is one of the key players in replacing Zach Cunningham, the Commodores’ defensive backbone from last season. He got off to a solid start Saturday, making four solo tackles and breaking up a pass. Additionally, as a junior last season, Burks recorded 59 total tackles and an interception. Freshman quarterback Aqeel Glass will be facing arguably the best defense he will see all season. He had a decent start to his career on Saturday, throwing for 101 yards and a touchdown. However, he completed just over 40 percent of his passes. He may split time with junior quarterback Damion May as he did last Saturday. Glass will have to be more accurate against Burks and the Commodore defense this week. If Burks is able to disrupt the freshman’s passing game, it could be a long night for the Bulldog offense.
CB Tre Herndon vs. WR Marceles Clash
Now a senior, Herndon has emerged as a leader of the Vanderbilt secondary. Last year, Herndon recorded 41 total tackles and two interceptions. He began this year on a good note, making four total tackles and breaking up two passes. Herndon will lead the Commodore defensive backs this Saturday against the Bulldogs’ receivers. Last Saturday, Clash led the Alabama A&M’s receiving core with three receptions for 51 yards. He also had one big gain where he caught a 40-yard bomb. The redshirt sophomore should continue to improve as he gains more experience throughout the season.