Commodore Brunch Week Two: On to the next one

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Commodore Brunch Week Two: On to the next one

Photo by Kevin N

Photo by Kevin N

Photo by Kevin N

Photo by Kevin N

Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

“First of all, shoutout Turner Cockrell. How you doing? I know you’re sitting in a room right now, you’re coming home tomorrow and we can’t wait to see you.”

Derek Mason addressed the media following Saturday’s win sporting a number 82 Vanderbilt shirt–Turner Cockrell’s number. Cockrell was recently diagnosed with melanoma and is receiving treatment in Houston. One thing’s for sure: Turner’s impact on the team is felt from miles away, as the Commodores played with an extra chip on their shoulders Saturday. That one was for Turner.

Two up, two down. In the second and final game of their opening home stand, Vanderbilt rode a red-hot offense to an easy victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack.

The game ended with a blowout margin of 41-10, but the score doesn’t tell the full story– the Commodores have a lot to learn from this one, especially if they hope to give Notre Dame a run for their money next weekend.

The team has improved in the past week, but their performance was far from perfect, as the Commodores found themselves off to a slow-start once again.

Last game, they took a whole half to get the wheels turning. This time around, thanks in part to red zone struggles, Vanderbilt couldn’t really get things going until the second quarter.

“We made some improvements from game one to game two, but I thought looking at it, it looked like we were balanced on offense,” Mason said. If we keep the football and put it in the endzone, this would be a different ballgame early. You can’t turnover the ball like that in this conference and expect to win ballgames.”

Here is your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:

Is This Backfield Still Three-Headed?

Few fans, if any, expected this Vanderbilt run game to take off the way it did Saturday. Ralph Webb’s Vanderbilt years have come to a close and the Commodores don’t even have a clear-cut starter, but Mason has no qualms with his current backfield.

Jamauri Wakefield tallied 43 rushing yards on eight carries, Khari Blasingame added 28 of his own, and even Josh Crawford tacked on 33 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. However, the most important story coming out of Vanderbilt’s backfield was Ke’Shawn Vaughn. The Illinois transfer managed to tally 93 yards on just 11 carries, along with two touchdowns.

When asked of Vaughn’s production, Mason gave the same answer he has continued to give: “He flashed, he showed why he’s the back we thought he is.”

While Mason has yet to give any new insight on the running-back situation, it seems as though Vaughn has all but solidified himself as the go-to guy. His experience makes him a threat to be reckoned with, and he proved his worth in his first “start” (he was the first running back to record a carry, but the backfield continued as a shared workload).

“I felt like the game had to come to me, I just had to be patient and read the keys,” Vaughn said about his performance.

“With it being a three man rotation, I know when my number is called I have to make a play. That’s just how all the running backs are. We know when our number is called we have to make a play.”

Vaughn and Mason may continue to advertise this backfield as a three-headed monster, but given Vaughn’s recent play, we can expect him to get the bulk of the carries when it really counts.

Lone Ranger and Tonto

The Commodores have relied heavily on Kalija Lipscomb through the first two games of the season.

So long as Lipscomb is healthy enough to line up, that won’t change. After last week’s game against Middle Tennessee, there was one unanswered question: who (or what) would be the next best target in the air?

According to Derek Mason, it’s the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

“I had some guys make some plays,” he said. “You look at Pinkney, we’ve been talking about Pinkney here for a while, and I think today you got the chance to see who this young man is and what he has the opportunity to do. Don’t forget Sam Dobbs, too. Dobbs is like his sidekick, those two roll together. It’s like the Lone Ranger and Tonto.”

Every quarterback loves a good, reliable tight end. Kyle Shurmur’s job becomes a lot easier when he’s got two of them.

The Commodores offense may have only completed six passes to the tight end duo, but in doing so, they gained 120 yards and opened up the field for Lipscomb to have another big performance.

“Our offensive game plan was geared to get the tight ends the ball a little bit more, so as a team when we get a little bit of protection we can execute it,” Pinkney said.

Hard-Nosed Defense

Vanderbilt’s defense seems to improve every day under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.

This game, it took a huge leap forward.

Cornerback Joejuan Williams recorded his first career interception, while Dare Odeyingbo forced a fumble of his own. Ladarius Wiley continued to make an impact in the secondary, keeping each Nevada receiver’s head on a swivel after delivering a couple hard (but this time, legal) hits.

The story of the day, however, were none of these defensive highlights: instead, it was the Josh Smith show.

Nevada had absolutely no success running the ball against the Commodores, rushing for a mere 34 yards on 25 attempts. Smith, a senior linebacker, managed to tally three tackles for loss en route to a spectacular ten-tackle performance.

Vanderbilt will have to continue to fire on all cylinders in order to make the Notre Dame matchup even slightly competitive. Hopefully, they can rely on the progression between weeks to fix slight issues in this game, including red zone offense.

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