Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 and moves to 2-0

Vanderbilt+defeats+Nevada+41-10+on+September+8%2C+2018.+Photo+by+Claire+Barnett
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Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 and moves to 2-0

Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 on September 8, 2018. Photo by Claire Barnett

Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 on September 8, 2018. Photo by Claire Barnett

Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 on September 8, 2018. Photo by Claire Barnett

Vanderbilt defeats Nevada 41-10 on September 8, 2018. Photo by Claire Barnett

Ben Seltzer

The Vanderbilt Commodores scored an impressive 41-10 victory today, with a balanced offensive attack paired with staunch defensive play that was far too much for the Nevada Wolfpack to handle.

The Commodores outgained the Wolfpack by nearly double, 468 to 250 yards, and managed to force Nevada’s offense to commit four turnovers, along with another two turnovers on downs. It was an all-around dominant effort from the Commodores, and it showed in the scoreboard.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn got the start at running back and made his impact felt immediately, with a 13-yard carry on the first play of the game. In a crowded backfield, first impressions made a difference, and Vaughn certainly didn’t waste any opportunities.

Vaughn was asked what getting the start meant to him, and said, “When my number is called, I gotta make a play. That’s just how all the running backs are. You know, when our number is called, it’s time to make a play.”

Just as Vanderbilt was finding their groove on offense and picking up right where they left off after last week’s 35-7 win, Chris Pierce fumbled after catching a pass from Kyle Shurmur deep in the red zone.

Nevada took over on their own 11-yard line, but their high powered offense, which put up 72 points on FCS squad Portland State last weekend, stalled, and they were forced to punt after a couple of first down conversions.

On the next drive, Shurmur made a quick toss to Jared Pinkney, and after catching a few key blocks, Pinkney rumbled for a huge 53-yard gain. It was the biggest gain of the season for the Commodores, but once again, Vanderbilt failed to punch it in once they reached the red zone, failing to score with a short field on four consecutive downs.

Nevada took over at their own three-yard line and was only able to gain a few yards on an offside call before having to punt again. Vanderbilt’s defense was swarming, shutting down any threat before a Nevada player made it out of the backfield. Their strong defense under new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is proving to be a major asset.

Vanderbilt took over once again, and Shurmur went right back to his new favorite target, Pinkney, for a 20-yard gain on first down. Another dart to Sam Dobbs netted the Commodores another 18 yards, setting up the first score of the day, a two-yard touchdown reception by Kalija Lipscomb.

After a kickoff, Vanderbilt recovered a fumble deep in Nevada territory, setting up a quick seven-yard rushing touchdown by Ke’Shawn Vaughn. The 15-second-long drive put the Commodores up by two scores, and the score represented the way the game had really been going to that point, with Vanderbilt outgaining the Wolfpack 180 to 22 yards.

After stalling yet another Nevada drive, Vanderbilt took over in what turned out to be a disastrous drive, receiving 25 penalty yards before a fumble by Kalija Lipscomb set up the Wolfpack just outside of the red zone. Fortunately, Vanderbilt’s tough defense held Nevada to just one first down and forced them to settle for a field goal.

Vanderbilt’s aerial assault continued on the next drive, with Shurmur spreading the ball around to several different receivers. But once again, they stalled when they reached the red zone and had to settle for a field goal.

Nevada finally got their offense going on the following drive by moving to a no huddle offense, and the Wolfpack marched down the field with a series filled with big plays. They finally made their way into the end zone on a 9-yard pass to Brendan O’Leary-Orange, bringing them within one score of Vanderbilt.

At the end of the first half, the score was Vanderbilt 17, Nevada 10.

Vanderbilt had a much better first half than the score suggested, but their failure to capitalize on three red zone opportunities, and two costly turnovers kept Nevada within striking distance.

The defense showed off their talent throughout the first half, picking up right where they left off against Middle Tennessee. The defensive line was a huge bright spot, getting penetration on nearly every passing play and forcing Nevada’s players to make quick decisions.

Jason Tarver has taken a unit that allowed the most points against conference opponents in SEC history last season, and he has quickly turned them into a force to be reckoned with. Time will tell if the defense holds up once conference play begins, but so far, the unit is looking fantastic.

Vanderbilt’s defense started the second half strong, forcing Nevada into a three-and-out. Shurmur and the Commodore offense, once again marched down the field, and once again failed to convert once they reached the red zone.

On the ensuing drive, the Commodores finally capitalized on a mistake, as Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi’s pass was intercepted by cornerback Joejuan Williams.

On the following play, Vaughn continued his strong game with a 46-yard touchdown run to the house, extending Vanderbilt’s lead to 17.

The Commodores were in full control at this point, and after stalling yet another Nevada drive, used as much of the clock as possible on the way to another touchdown for Kalija Lipscomb, this time an 11-yard reception.

Vanderbilt’s defensive pressure continued to mount, forcing Gangi into several mistakes, including a near-catastrophic fumble, which was recovered by Nevada. Nevada moved the ball well on the ensuing drive, but was once again halted on fourth down near the goal line.

Vanderbilt, firmly in the driver’s seat of the game, took control of the ball, and ran more time off the clock, feeding their stable of backs, who accounted for 198 rushing yards on the day. This three-headed monster of a backfield has been highly effective thus far, and it’ll be interesting to see how Derek Mason doles out carries once the tough conference schedule hits.

Clearly, Mason has cultivated a running back room that is not only overflowing with talent, but also respect desire to push each other towards greatness. While Mason’s approach is not traditional, the results don’t lie, with the backs combining to average 187 yards per game.

After the game, when asked about the backfield situation, coach Derek Mason said, “you talk about a group of dudes who really love each other. I mean, they play hard for one another. I mean, they’re cheering dudes on, when one goes in, the other one is sitting there cheering. That’s what I call mutual respect.”

This was a solid effort for the Commodores, easily dismantling a Nevada team coming off the high of putting up 72 points on an opponent. Coach Mason still had some complaints, starting off the press conference by noting that the team was “kinda sloppy,” and that “the best football still hasn’t been played.”

Looking forward to next week, the Commodores travel to South Bend, where they’ll meet a formidable Notre Dame squad looking to put Irish football back on top.

Coming off a performance like this, Coach Mason and Vanderbilt should be encouraged, but their best foe lies ahead of them. If they want to have any shot at taking down the Irish, their solid play will have to elevate to a level we’ve yet to see out of this team.

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