Commodores looking to fix key mistakes in order to take down Kentucky


Claire Barnett

Vanderbilt loses to Florida in football on Saturday, October 13, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Justin Hershey

After a disappointing finish this past weekend in Nashville, the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-4 overall) hit the road for three straight games still in search of their first SEC win.

If this team wants to become bowl eligible, they will have to finish the season 3-2 which means at least one win on the road. The opponent this week will be a 5-1 Kentucky team that is ranked 14th in the nation and having one of its best seasons in program history. At his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, head coach Derek Mason applauded the efforts of Kentucky this season.

“Coach Stoops has done a terrific job, they are playing really well,” Mason said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence.”

Mason has seen some good things from his team the last few weeks, but a lot of ugly things as well.  After a fantastic first half against Florida, quarterback Kyle Shurmur and the offense struggled to move the ball and put points up in the second half.  The offensive struggles could possibly be attributed an injury to running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and a number of key drops by receivers.

“We got behind on a couple of early pass downs with a couple of drops that really stagnated a couple of those drives,” Mason said.

Vanderbilt loses to Florida in football on Saturday, October 13, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

With the competition that the Commodores face each week, the margin for error is already razor thin and fundamental errors can prove to be lethal. Mason voiced his frustrations over the drops.

“If you’re an SEC receiver stepping on the field my expectation is for the ball to get caught,” he said. “If I’m going to ask my quarterback to stay in there and get hit, I am going to expect you to catch the ball.”

He also stressed the importance of getting the ball to his playmakers, and the Commodores have no bigger weapon than Junior reciever Kalija Lipscomb.  Mason noted that after watching film, Lipscomb was clearly open. As one of the best receivers in the SEC, it is imperative for quarterback Kyle Shurmur to continue to look Lipscomb’s way.  

Lipscomb admitted that last week was frustrating but he continues to support his team.

“Last week was the first time in my college career that I got kind of frustrated during the game,” he said. “I just have to stay within myself and I have to work within the offense. I can’t get in my own head.”

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will look for more consistency and the ability of his team to get off the field on third down.  This continues to be an issue for the Commodore defense as against Florida, as they were forced to be on the field for 92 plays.

If the Commodores want to stop Kentucky’s offense, the main focus will be the SEC’s leading running back junior Benny Snell.  Snell has rushed for 700 yards and eight touchdowns already this season. Mason sees the Kentucky offense as a 65% running unit and will emphasize the importance of tackling as a group to stop Kentucky’s running game.

Vanderbilt Football loses to Florida, 37-27, at Homecoming on Oct. 13, 2018. Photo by Madison Lindeman.

“We have to get Benny [Snell] on the groun,” he said. “We have to gang tackle. Tackling is not a one-man job. It has to be a unit effort to tackle this running attack”

So how close is this football team from an SEC win?  Defensive end Dare Odeyingbo agrees with his coach that this team is close.

“I think we are a couple plays away,” he said. “It’s all about finishing down the stretch. It’s all about that extra emphasis on finishing games, finishing plays, finishing with execution.”

The Commodores will have to play a complete game this weekend, which is not something we have seen them do arguably since the Notre Dame loss back in September.  But the team’s spirits remain high and Mason is ready.

“This group is not built to back down,” he said. “They are not going to back down. They are looking for the opportunity to break through the other side and the opportunity is this week so let’s go.”