Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt vs. Nevada


Hunter Long

Vanderbilt plays Middle Tennessee State in Football on Saturday, September 1, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Alyssa Muir

Vanderbilt started off the season 1-0 after a convincing 35-7 opening night victory against Middle Tennessee State. The Commodores started slow, but the offense turned it on in the second half to secure the convincing win.

This weekend, the Nevada Wolf Pack come to town on the heels of a 72-19 thrashing of Portland State. Vanderbilt will need to get off to a much faster start this Saturday to ensure they begin the season undefeated before a trip to South Bend.

Here are three match-ups to keep an eye on during this week’s game:

Vanderbilt Secondary vs. WR McLane Mannix

In January of 2017, McLane Mannix, a three-star wide receiver at the time, decommitted from Vanderbilt and later announced his commitment to Nevada on Signing Day. Fast forward almost two years and Mannix is now a star in the Mountain West Conference.

In his first game of the season, Mannix completely dominated his competition. He totaled 132 receiving yards and three touchdowns and is the focal point of Nevada’s high-scoring offense.

To win this “revenge” match-up against Mannix, the Commodore secondary must play like they did against the Blue Raiders last week. In that match-up, no receiver for MTSU had more than 42 receiving yards.

It will also help the Vanderbilt defensive back unit to have fifth-year safety LaDarius Wiley back after he was ejected early in last week’s game for targeting.

WR Kalija Lipscomb vs. Other Vanderbilt Receivers

Outside of one drop on a potential big play last Saturday, Kalija Lipscomb looked every bit the part of the team’s top receiver that he is expected to be. It was obvious that Kyle Shurmur was searching for him from the get-go and Lipscomb rewarded him with four receptions, including one Sportscenter-worthy touchdown catch.

The rest of the Vanderbilt receiving core came into the beginning of the season as a bit of a question mark. In the first half, it was a struggle for many of them to get much separation from the MTSU defensive backs. As a result, Shurmur had only 28 passing yards at halftime. Fortunately, the second half was a huge improvement for the Commodores young receivers. Donaven Tennyson caught a huge 49-yard pass to ignite the crowd and Vanderbilt offense and sophomore Chris Pierce had a 17-yard touchdown reception.

Look for Lipscomb and his fellow receivers to build off of last week and develop more confidence as a group against Nevada.

Vanderbilt vs. The New Kickoff Rule

This year, kick returners can fair catch any kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback. In last week’s game, MTSU used this new rule often and had zero kickoff returns the whole game, taking all excitement out of kickoffs.

Vanderbilt’s revamped special teams, under new coordinator Shawn Mennenga, will have to look for other ways to impact the game for as long as teams continue to fair catch every kickoff.