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.

Mississippi State offense too much for Vanderbilt, Commodores lose, 45-6

Mississippi State’s offense was just too much for Clark Lea and Vanderbilt on Saturday as the Commodores dropped their third straight game.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt dropped its third consecutive game on Saturday, losing to Mississippi State for the second consecutive year. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

For the second consecutive season, the Vanderbilt Commodores faced off with SEC West foe Mississippi State on the gridiron. The Commodores were unable to claim their first victory over the Bulldogs since 2004, however, dropping the contest by a dominant score of 45-6.

After narrowly dropping a game to South Carolina in Columbia, this week’s contest wasn’t all that competitive with the Bulldogs jumping out to an early lead that they maintained throughout the contest. Mississippi State’s 524 total yards trounced Vanderbilt’s total of 155 and eight Bulldog-plays over 15 yards paved the way for State’s fourth win of the season.

“We are disappointed in the result. The nucleus of this program and this rebuild is going to be hurt by this result,” head coach Clark Lea said after the game. “Am I worried about cumulative effect [of these loses]? No. I have trust in our players. We have been through this now. We have built a foundation here in terms of how we respond to adversity.”

Once again, poor defense from the Commodores in the early going dug Clark Lea’s team a hole that was simply too deep to escape. For the seventh straight week, Vanderbilt surrendered early points to its opponent. This time, it was quarterback Will Rogers and Mississippi State who struck first. Rogers completed his first ten passes on the afternoon and led consecutive first-quarter scoring drives of 79 and 55 yards respectively. Rogers, the SEC’s leading passer, finished his day with 386 yards and four touchdown tosses.

“The short answer is third down. We have to be better on third down,” Lea said of his defenses’ struggles. “Its the combination of both getting pressure and covering that gives you a chance to get off the field.”

The 10-0 deficit didn’t last long, however. The Bulldogs tacked on two more touchdowns in the first half thanks to ten-plus play drives of 60 and 50 yards respectively. Head coach Mike Leach’s team racked up 22:35 minutes of the first half possession to Vanderbilt’s 7:25 as the Commodores totaled just 17 offensive plays in the entire half. Despite notching an interception and two sacks, they found themselves trailing 24-3 at the break with their only points coming thanks to a field goal from Joey Bulovas that was set up by a 61-yard strike down the seam to Devin Boddie Jr.

“What we experienced tonight is the breakdown of the complementary aspect of football,” Lea said. “Its totally unacceptable for us to play 50 snaps on defense in the first half. Thats never going to be a formula here for success.”

The Commodores tallied their sixth turnover in two games early in the third quarter, but were only able to add another Bulovas field goal after a seven-play drive yielded just 25 yards. The Bulldogs responded with their fourth ten-plus play drive of the afternoon to extend their lead to 31-6 late in the third before totaling a pair of scores in the game’s final frame—one toss from backup quarterback Chance Lovertich and one on the ground from Jo’quavious Marks. Vanderbilt ran just 42 plays compared to Mississippi State’s 87.

“When you fall short, it hurts. It hurt last week, it hurt this week,” Lea said. “We are disappointed but we don’t have time to be victimized by it. We have to get back up off the mat.”

Lea and his team will look to bounce back next week as they host Missouri in the second of a three-game SEC homestand.

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About the Contributor
Justin Hershey
Justin Hershey, Former Sports Editor
Justin Hershey ('22) was Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Deputy Sports Editor and Lead Sports Analyst. He majored in human and organizational development with minors in business and economics. In addition to writing, he hosts The Hustler Sports 30 Podcast, enjoys playing golf and is waiting for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers to complete The Process. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected]    
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