The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Commodore Brunch Week Four: Is Vanderbilt bad again?

Photo by Hunter Long

After a rousing performance by the Vanderbilt Commodores at Notre Dame, I thought it would have taken a pretty abysmal game on Saturday to undo all the momentum from South Bend.

Yet, here we are.

The Commodores squandered what could have been a golden upset opportunity and lost 37-14 to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon. Suddenly, the five-point loss to eighth-ranked Notre Dame seems like a very distant memory.

After a terrible start, the Commodores rallied to keep it close, but as the rain fell in the second half, the Commodore offense simply couldn’t catch a break.

Now, the Commodores sit at 2-2, and the team will need to find some answers to burning questions quickly, or this season could slip away again after more sky-high hopes.

Here is your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:

Shurmur Misses the Mark

Photo by Hunter Long

Last weekend, quarterback Kyle Shurmur thrust himself into the national spotlight with a stellar performance at Notre Dame. He was accurate, made plays down the stretch and did everything he could to give his team the chance to win.

That was not the case this weekend.

Shurmur struggled through much of this game, with a lot of it having to do with the pressure brought on by South Carolina’s front seven. He threw for just 180 yards, had one interception and fumbled twice. On numerous occasions, he had open receivers that he underthrew, overthrew or threw behind.

The frustration was palpable, especially down the stretch. Vanderbilt was driving towards the red zone to try and get themselves back in the game in the fourth quarter, but an errant snap that trickled all the way to Vanderbilt territory on third down killed the drive.

Quite simply, this was not the Shurmur that we saw in South Bend last weekend.

“You look at us not being able to stay on the field, and it does become frustrating to your quarterback,” Mason said. “But, he’s got to keep his composure. As he goes, those guys go, so for him, he’s got to come back, he’s got to get the valuable information just in terms of what he sees, coaches will make the adjustments. We’ve just got to keep it moving, but I think tonight he got pressured a little bit, got hit a little bit.”

Mason also noted that with wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney double covered throughout most of the game, other receivers need to step up and make plays. That is absolutely true, but there were other players open that Shurmur just missed. For example, Trey Ellis was wide open for a 20+ yard gain in the third quarter, but Shurmur threw the ball about four yards too short.

Shurmur is still an NFL-caliber quarterback. His performance in this one is not indicative of his potential. However, if Vanderbilt is to have any chance against SEC opponents the rest of the season, Shurmur will need to be more like South Bend Shurmur. This offense lives and dies by him, and if he’s not hitting his targets, then the ceiling is rather low.

Next weekend’s game against Tennessee State will be a golden opportunity to find more rhythm and get mentally reset.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Sacked

Photo by Hunter Long

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Vanderbilt’s offense refused to stick with things that were working in this game, and it cost them.

Every time the offense found momentum and found a way to beat the defense, they moved away from what was working and stalled their own offense. It was maddening to watch a team with so much talent and seemingly effective strategies squander this game away.

Take the second quarter for example. The Commodores had just marched 75 yards for a massive touchdown to make it 17-14 in favor of South Carolina, and followed that up with a big defensive stop. Vanderbilt had the ball at their own 16 yard line with 2:53 remaining in the half.

And then all of the creative play calls that got them to that point vanished.

The ensuing drive was a three-and-out featuring two negligible run plays and an incomplete pass. It was stagnant, ugly and set the tone for the rest of the game. South Carolina proceeded to turn that three-and-out into three more points before the half.

In an instant, the Commodores’ offensive schemes changed from electric, varied and interesting to dull, boring and predictable.

In fast food terms, the Commodores’ went from Taco Bell to McDonald’s and never recovered.

On top of that, Ke’Shawn Vaughn seemed to be the best running back in the game, yet he didn’t see a snap in the second half until late in the third quarter after the weather delay. At some point, when you’ve found a running back that’s finding ways to gash the defense, you have stop rotating and stick with him.

News flash: game plans can be adapted based on what’s working.

Part of that falls on offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Once again, the Commodore offense refused to stick with what worked and made decisions based on a rigid game plan that was destined to fail.

If Ludwig continues to be unable to get out of his own way and recognize when it’s time to stick with what’s effective, then this offense will continue to show signs of greatness and then substitute that greatness for obvious runs up the middle.

Deep Breaths, Vanderbilt Fans

Photo by Hunter Long

The last two weeks have been quite the whirlwind of emotion, so let’s take a deep breath and take stock of where Vanderbilt is at the moment.

It’s way too soon to go the way of Rob Schneider in “The Waterboy.”

No, Vanderbilt does not suck again.

The Commodores are 2-2, which is pretty much right where most expected them to be at this point before the season began. They didn’t get blown out last weekend at Notre Dame in a game that very easily could have been a blowout.

This week’s performance was bad. There’s no question about it. But, it’s the first bad performance out of four. All things considered, Vanderbilt has not exceeded expectations, yet hasn’t been a complete letdown just yet.

How about you put away the torches and pitchforks for now, alright?

“Tonight, it was just poor football all the way around,” Mason said. “It was a comedy of errors. I think our guys will actually be able to take a lot more from this considering how it started, how it played out in the middle and how it felt in the end.”

“We’ve got to be able to create our own momentum. I don’t think setting drills and doing things, it’s not about that. It’s about the mindset, and obviously I need to do a better job with the mindset. We’ve got to focus, come in here and be ready to play.”

Next week, Vanderbilt has the chance to play Tennessee State and get its third win. That game should look more like the first two weeks. Then, Vanderbilt hits the road to take on Georgia in a game no one could ever expect Vanderbilt to win.

Looking down the rest of the schedule, there are not many more opponents of South Carolina’s caliber. Florida is very good but a beatable opponent, as are Arkansas, Ole Miss and certainly Tennessee. Mizzou and Kentucky might be tougher, but there’s no reason to write Vanderbilt off in those games either.

Vanderbilt is sitting basically right where they should be right now. And if the Commodores can figure out how to turn the flashes of brilliance we saw in South Bend last week and in the second quarter on Saturday into 60 minutes of brilliance, there are at least six wins waiting on the schedule.

Take a deep breath, Vanderbilt fans. It’s going to be okay.

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About the Contributor
Cutler Klein
Cutler Klein, Former Sports Editor
Cutler Klein ('19) was the Sports Editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He previously served as Assistant Sports Editor. He majored in communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When he's not writing stories, tweeting silly GIFs or watching any hockey game he can find, Cutler is running the sports department of VandyRadio, hosting VU Sports Wired on VTV and covering the Nashville Predators as a credentialed media member for Penalty Box Radio. Cutler has had bylines on and

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