After getting off to a relatively easy 2-0 start, defeating Middle Tennessee State University and Alabama A&M by a combined 64 points, the Vanderbilt Commodores will face their first real test of the season when Kansas State comes to town this Saturday.
The eighteenth-ranked Wildcats have beaten Central Arkansas and Charlotte by scores of 55-19 and 55-7, respectively. In their first two games, both Vanderbilt and Kansas State had little problem scoring at ease and keeping opponents out of the end zone.
Here are three key matchups to watch this Saturday.
WR Trent Sherfield vs. DB Kendall Adams
Through two games, Sherfield has established himself as one of quarterback Kyle Shurmur’s favorite targets. The senior has recorded eight catches for 137 yards and one touchdown; he is also averaging over seventeen yards per reception. Sherfield has proven in the past that he can be a leading wide receiver as he had 659 receiving yards as a sophomore.
Adams had a day he will remember forever on Saturday. The defensive back returned an interception for a 30-yard touchdown and, shortly after, scooped up a fumble and ran it back 46 yards for another score. The junior has also recorded eight solo tackles through the first two games. Adams is a leader of a secondary that is ranked 15th in the nation in passing nation. The winner of the receivers and defensive backs matchup could very well determine the outcome of the game.
LB Emmanuel Smith vs. RB Alex Barnes
After dealing with injuries for much of the 2016 season, Smith has come on strong this season. He, along with fellow linebacker Oren Burks, have been key components of the stingy Commodore defensive unit that has only allowed six total points through the first two games. The senior recorded ten total tackles against Alabama A&M last Saturday along with half of a sack.
Barnes leads the Wildcats rushing unit, which picked up 304 yards on the ground against Charlotte. The sophomore ran for 99 yards and one touchdown on Saturday. Through the first two games, Barnes is averaging over five yards a carry. Smith and the other linebackers will have to be on top of their game to slow down the powerful Kansas State rushing attack led by Barnes.
QB Kyle Shurmur vs. LB Trent Tanking
Shurmur is off to a historic start to his 2017 season. On Saturday, the junior set a Vanderbilt completion record by completing 83.3 percent of his passes. He has already thrown for seven touchdowns through the first two games and has not thrown an interception. While the Kansas State defense will be by far the toughest passing defense Shurmur has faced this season, he will look to exploit it as the Wildcats are not as good against the pass as they are against the run.
Tanking, a senior, is a leader of the Wildcats linebacker group. He has recorded eleven tackles through the first two games, including eight solo tackles, and has broken up a pass. Tanking will look to disrupt Shurmur’s passing game by getting to the quarterback often and holding his receivers to short gains through his open-field tackling skills.