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.

Vanderbilt football falls to 20th-ranked LSU 41-7

The Commodores drop to 0-2 for the season with the ugly loss.
Donovan Kaufman and Vanderbilt football fell to #20 LSU 41-7 on Oct. 3, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

The Commodores dropped their home opener to 20th-ranked LSU 41-7 on Saturday.

The arm tackles of 2019 were thought to have been put in the past in first-year defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s system. Against Texas A&M last week, Vanderbilt’s defense struggled to tackle in the open field, but there was still some hope that the tackling had improved.

Not only did Vanderbilt have trouble tackling in the open field Saturday night against No. 20 LSU, but the Commodores couldn’t tackle when they got off blocks. Or when they seemingly had a wide receiver contained. Or when Emery Jr. was surrounded by black jerseys.

Head coach Derek Mason was unhappy with the missed tackles.

“We had a lot of opportunities early in this ball game to close out and have some good contact on tackles for loss, and we didn’t,” said Mason. “We didn’t cut off the edges well either, and as our edges got soft, the ball seemed to leak out.”

The black jerseys had a few shining moments, though.

Senior cornerback Randall Haynie picked off LSU quarterback Myles Brennan halfway through the second quarter to wake up the Vanderbilt sideline.

Freshman quarterback Ken Seals promptly drove the Commodores 58 yards down the field. He found tight end Ben Bresnahan for an eight-yard touchdown connection, the first touchdown reception of Bresnahan’s college career. The nearly four-minute long drive was Vanderbilt’s longest drive of the first half.

One of the night’s most electrifying plays was freshman defensive back Donovan Kaufman’s kickoff return after LSU went up 21-7 late in the second quarter.

Kaufman took the ball out from five yards deep in his own end zone, which usually doesn’t end well. But Kaufman showed off his speed and raced through the LSU coverage unit for a 58-yard kickoff return. 

“I have to thank my blockers,” said Kaufman. “Special teams is a big part of the game. It’s a game changer. It can really change the mood of the game.”

Unfortunately, the brilliant return was all for naught as kicker Pierson Cooke missed a 22-yard field goal wide left. Cooke, a converted punter, is 1-for-3 on field goals this season.

At halftime, Vanderbilt trailed 21-7, but it looked like it had a fighting chance until the third quarter.

Vanderbilt struggled to get any momentum in the third quarter, as LSU’s defensive line made easy work of Vanderbilt’s makeshift offensive line. Prior to the season, four projected starters in Vanderbilt’s offensive line opted out of the season, and it was clear throughout much of the game that the current offensive line was outmatched.

Mason opened his bag of tricks to try to spark the Commodore offense midway through the third quarter.

Safety Dashaun Jerkins took a direct snap as Vanderbilt lined up to punt the ball away on fourth-and-five on its own 30-yard line. Jerkins gained seven yards and a first down with an epic stiff arm.

But, again, it was all for naught as Vanderbilt was forced to punt again three plays later.

LSU took advantage of Vanderbilt’s stagnant offense by racking up points in the third quarter. Kicker Cade York connected on two field goals, a 53-yarder and a 31-yarder. LSU added another touchdown when Brennan found wide receiver Jontre Kirklin for his second touchdown catch of the night off a flea flicker with less than a minute remaining in the quarter.

Brennan threw for 337 yards and four touchdowns in the best performance of his young career.

Going into the final quarter, LSU led 34-7, but the game seemed further apart than 27 points.

Seals is a fiery competitor and wasn’t ready to go down without a fight. He led the offense on an efficient 11-play, 66-yard drive before he tossed an interception in the end zone. LSU safety Todd Harris Jr. was ready and returned the pick 21 yards.

LSU’s offense marched down the field on a seven-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. Emery Jr. capped off the drive with a 12-yard rush, slipping through every level of Vanderbilt’s defense. 

Emery Jr. rushed 12 times for 103 yards and a touchdown.

With a 41-7 lead, the game looked over. Of course, in classic Vanderbilt fashion, it only got worse.

Seals threw his second interception of the night to LSU cornerback Eli Ricks. Ricks had tight coverage, and the throw was a freshman mistake that really summed up the night.

Seals went 11-of-25 for 113 yards in his home debut. He’ll look to bounce back next week in a winnable divisional game.

The running game also looks to improve next week with the hopeful return of running back Keyon Henry-Brooks. Jamauri Wakefield carried the ball 16 times for 52 yards, and Ja’Veon Marlow rushed 17 times for 83 yards.

Marlow said, “We’ve had the one-two punch, but we need the three-headed monster.”

Vanderbilt (0-2) hosts SEC East foe South Carolina (0-2) Saturday Oct. 10 at 11 AM CT.

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About the Contributor
Betsy Goodfriend
Betsy Goodfriend, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Betsy Goodfriend ('21) was the Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Human and Organizational Development with a minor in Business. In her free time, she enjoys online shopping, creating to-do lists and watching football even if she has no interest in either team playing. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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