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Commodores preparing for bounce-back opportunity against TSU

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Commodores preparing for bounce-back opportunity against TSU

Vanderbilt football plays University of South Carolina, on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. Photo by Emma Stapleton

Vanderbilt football plays University of South Carolina, on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. Photo by Emma Stapleton

Emma Stapleton

Vanderbilt football plays University of South Carolina, on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. Photo by Emma Stapleton

Emma Stapleton

Emma Stapleton

Vanderbilt football plays University of South Carolina, on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. Photo by Emma Stapleton

Henry Hunter

The Vanderbilt Commodores look to bounce back this weekend as they host the crosstown Tennessee State University Tigers. Following a narrow defeat at Notre Dame’s, Saturday’s lopsided 37-14 loss to South Carolina was a disappointment for the Commodores.

South Carolina rushed for 273 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry. At Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Derek Mason spoke about what he saw after reviewing the tape.

“South Carolina looked faster and more physical,” Mason said. “They played well. We did not.”

This season has a very similar feel to last season’s, as like last year, this team headed into its first SEC contest with a lot of optimism only to be beaten badly at home. While last year’s SEC opening loss to Alabama was the start of a seven-game losing streak in SEC play, Mason said this year’s team feels different.

“I don’t think this team came out of this game feeling beaten,” he said. “I think this team came out of this game feeling we left a lot out there.”

Following their loss to Notre Dame, both players and coaches spoke about not taking solace in close defeats and having an expectation to win. While TSU is not the same level of competition as Notre Dame or South Carolina, Mason spoke about their strengths.

“I know this: they’ve got athletes and they’re putting up points,” he said. “We’re going to get their best ballgame so we have to play ours.”

The TSU game will give the Commodores an opportunity to work on offensive consistency, an area that was lacking this past Saturday. While the defense gave up 37 points, offensive lineman Bruno Reagan spoke about the offense’s role in the defense’s struggles as a result of short drives.

“A lot of the defensive issues are just getting off the field early,” he said.

Frequently against South Carolina, the Commodores found themselves in difficult third-and-longs, a large factor in their converting only two of 14 third downs. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who averaged six yards per touch on Saturday, confusingly has not seen his role increase despite his steady production. However, Mason remains committed to spreading out carries amongst his running backs.

“I’m not going to get into the idea that one guy needs the ball,” Mason said. “We’ve got to feed that backfield because they’re good.”

At times, the distribution of carries among the running backs can seem perplexing. After getting just two carries against Notre Dame, Sophomore running back Jamauri Wakefield was impressive on Saturday, gaining 72 yards on 14 carries.

Conversely, Khari Blasingame received only three carries after having a team-high 13 carries against Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Vaughn has seen a steady diet of touches and continues to be the Commodores’ most productive back. He appears to be the most elusive of the trio, making him the strongest weapon out of the backfield in the passing game.

Mason spoke about the need for other players to start making plays to alleviate the pressure on tight end Jared Pinkney and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb.

“Pinkney and Kalija are known commodities,” he said. “Other guys need to step up and make plays.”

After disappointing outcomes the last two weeks, the Commodores look to get back on track at home on Saturday against Tennessee State.

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