Press Conference Notes: Lea talks important takeaways from Georgia matchup, looks ahead to Missouri

Clark Lea met with the media on Tuesday for his weekly press conference, discussing his team’s loss to Georgia and looking ahead to Missouri.


Barrie Barto

Vanderbilt Defense celebrates a big stop, as photographed on Oct. 8, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

Jonah Barbin, Senior Staff Writer

Clark Lea addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon during his weekly scheduled press conference. The head coach discussed his takeaways from the 55-0 blowout at the hands of Georgia on Oct. 15 and previewed the Commodores’ upcoming trip to Columbia to take on Missouri. 

Lea asserted that, although it was what many would deem as a ‘week to forget’ against Georgia, there were important lessons to take away from Vanderbilt’s trip to Athens.

“It’s never a ‘burn the film’ week. There’s always something to pull from,” Lea said. “What we saw in that game was twofold: We failed to make the available play on offense. We have good players that were in good positions… Defensively, I thought we have to work to stops. We have to get stops.”

Without a doubt, the Commodores have endured the most difficult stretch of their schedule, as Lea mentioned. 

“In the end, we’ve gone through a tough stretch playing 3 consecutive top-10 teams, and we’ve lost 4 games to teams in the top 15 in the country,” Lea said. “Our best effort is out in front of us. We use that perspective to help shift focus and say, ‘What did we learn to this point? Where are we falling short? What can we do better?’ Then, let’s go as hard as we can at the next opponent, which this week is Missouri.” 

Lea also touched on how the team stays together and poised while facing a lot of adversity.

“Losses are hard. They challenge you. In these moments, everything is temporary. So you work through and you turn the page and you take learning, you move forward,” Lea said. “But what’s permanent are the choices you make when you’re facing adversity. I think that reveals your character, and that has been the message to both the staff and the team.”

Lea then addressed Missouri’s front four, who have been great at stopping the run early in the season with the exception of their last game against Florida.

“It’s a really good defense through the middle. Their defensive line is disruptive, and they’re physical,” Lea said. “They have an aggressive style of play in terms of their design and in the way their players attack each rep. In that way, I think this defense will be equal to a lot of what we’ve seen to this point. So we’re going to have to work to create space for our offense.”

While Vanderbilt was being thrashed by Georgia on Saturday, Missouri was on a bye, preparing to right the ship after losing their last 3 games by a combined 14 points. Lea talked about the potential for Missouri to switch things up this week.

“They have plenty of wrinkles within the available play menu where you can see adaptations off those, and so sometimes you might have seen one play out of a formation that becomes a complementary play. So certainly you’re anticipating that and trying to think one step ahead. But also during a bye week, you’re looking back at what was successful when you’re on the bye,” Lea said. “So, we need to also pay attention to what has generated success for them and anticipate them using those sets and those players in those ways and being prepared to defend them.”

A critical key to success this season for the Commodores has been the run game. Lea had a lot to say about reinvigorating the ground attack this week. 

“Similar to talking about winning one-on-ones on pass rush, we played against an opponent that was able to expose us some at times on singular blocks. They closed space down inside, and I thought they pursued well at the second and third level too,” Lea said. “When we did have space, they closed it quickly. Good teams are going to do that. When we were at our best against Ole Miss, we were able to physically move the line of scrimmage to create enough space for our backs to get going. We need to do that this weekend against Missouri. I talked about their defensive front—that’s going to present challenges. But I believe in our line of scrimmage. We’ve developed an identity up there, and coach [AJ] Blazek has done a great job. They’ll be prepared, and they’ll be ready to get our backs loose.”

Vanderbilt and Mizzou will face off at 3 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Oct. 22, in Columbia, Missouri.