Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt vs. ETSU

Vanderbilt faces East Tennessee State Nov. 23 at 2:30 p.m.


Truman McDaniel

Vanderbilt huddles against Kentucky on November 16, 2019.

Jack Hollier

With Derek Mason recently confirmed to return for the 2020 season by athletic director Malcolm Turner, the Vanderbilt Commodores are looking to salvage what remains of this season and rebound next fall. On Saturday, the Commodores face the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, a 3-8 team from the Southern Conference. Although Vanderbilt will not be able to reach a bowl game this season, it hopes to end its season on a higher note and snap its current 3-game losing streak.

Here are three matchups to look out for on Saturday:

Running Back Ke’Shawn Vaughn vs. ETSU Defensive Line

Although Ke’Shawn Vaughn has not matched the success of his 2018 campaign, his 876 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2019 have been nothing to ignore. Vaughn has already proven that he can contend with the defensive lines of nationally ranked teams like LSU and Georgia, against whom he rushed for 130 yards and 74 yards, respectively. Facing a smaller defensive line should allow Vaughn to run for even more yards than he has against tougher SEC lines. 

Furthermore, this season Vaughn has run for an average of 6.8 yards per rush against non-conference opponents. Against another non-conference opponent, UNLV, Vaughn rushed for 140 yards, averaging 9.3 yards per carry. Despite the team’s abysmal loss to UNLV, Vaughn demonstrated his consistency and reliability on the ground. Considering the fact that the Commodores’ FCS opponent ETSU has allowed 25 rushing touchdowns this season, Vaughn may have a chance to collect a few more scores before the end of the season. 

Running Back Quay Holmes vs. Vanderbilt Defensive Line

Despite Eastern Tennessee State’s 3-8 record, Quay Holmes has emerged as a star during the 2019 season. Holmes has rushed for over 1,100 yards this season, and he also returns punts for an average of 24 yards per punt return. Holmes leads all skill players with 168 all-purpose yards per game. Vanderbilt’s defensive line should be focused on Holmes, who has established himself as a threat both on the ground and in the air. With Vanderbilt’s defensive line struggling against SEC teams, it will be interesting to see how they fare against Quay Holmes since he will be protected by a smaller ETSU offensive line.

Wide Receiver Kalija Lipscomb vs. Cornerback Artevius Smith    

It will take somewhat of a miracle for Kalija Lipscomb to even approach his 2018 totals in both receptions and touchdowns, but Lipscomb’s 87 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2018 proved that he was an elite wide receiver. But with a lackluster two touchdowns over the course of the 2019 season, Lipscomb may struggle to add to that total when he likely faces ETSU cornerback Artevius Smith. Despite the discrepancy between the expectations for Lipscomb’s senior season and the results this season, Lipscomb leads the Commodores in receiving yards this season. His experience and capability may allow for him to have a standout game against ETSU. Although Lipscomb has the size advantage at 6’1” to Smith’s 5’10”, Smith has demonstrated his playmaking ability by leading ETSU with five interceptions this season.  Lipscomb’s veteran skills matched up against Smith’s defensive abilities will make this matchup an intriguing one.