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.

Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt vs. Missouri

Three keys in order for Vanderbilt to compete against No. 23 Missouri this week.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Patrick Smith rushes against Missouri in Vanderbilt’s loss on Oct. 31, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

After a disappointing loss in the first week of conference play to Kentucky, the Vanderbilt Commodores extended their losing streak to three in a row, falling to 2-3 on the season. Fundamental mistakes such as nine turnovers in the past three games, poor decision making and an inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities have plagued the team’s in-game performances.

However, when playing a clean game, Team 3 has the ability to compete in the SEC. This week, the Commodores look to prove just that as they take on No. 23 Missouri at home as 13.5-point underdogs. 

Vanderbilt’s offensive line vs. Missouri defensive line

Perhaps one of the game-deciding matchups will be a struggling Vanderbilt offensive line against a solid, experienced Missouri defense. 

Throughout the season, Vanderbilt’s offensive line has struggled to keep opposing teams from getting into the Commodores’ backfield. This season, quarterback AJ Swann has taken nine sacks — five of which have occurred over the past three games. Vanderbilt’s offensive front needs to be more disciplined to prevent these sacks to give Swann the necessary time to find options downfield.

Missouri, meanwhile, returned more than 80 percent of its defensive production this year and has seen success against some high-powered offensive teams like Kansas State. The team has 12 sacks on the season and three interceptions, both categories that Vanderbilt has struggled in to begin the season. Johnny Walker Jr., the Tigers’ top defensive end, will pose a threat on the outside. Walker Jr. has three sacks on the season, which ranks fifth in the SEC, and has tacked on 4.5 tackles for a loss. 

AJ Swann vs. Confidence and consistency

A persistent struggle that Swann has faced is not as much external as it is internal. While Swann has been nursing an elbow contusion he suffered against UNLV and is questionable for this week’s game, issues with consistency have been a persistent problem this season. Commodore fans saw last year that Swann is capable of producing success for the team in the SEC. In order to do this though, Swann is going to have to find the confidence and consistency that his coaching staff believes he has in him. This year alone Swann has thrown seven interceptions through five games, which opponents have scored 37 points off of. Last year, the quarterback threw two interceptions in nine games. Some of the inconsistency in Swann’s play in the pocket can be attributed to the inconsistency of his offensive line. The offensive line has failed to provide Swann with the time to go through all of his progressions. Instead of making good reads to a talented receiving core downfield — a goal of his this season — Swann is left uneasy and grasping for options before a rapidly collapsing defense finally catches him. A confident and consistent quarterback is a necessity for a team that wants to compete in the SEC, and Swann must find both of these traits to be the quarterback Vanderbilt both wants and needs. This starts not only internally for the young quarterback but also in remedying the issue of protection.

Vanderbilt’s linebackers vs. Missouri run game 

The Missouri Tigers have had just over 600 yards on the ground, contributing to seven touchdowns this season. Almost all 608 yards can be attributed to two players; graduate students Cody Shrader (403) and Nathaniel Peat (186). When in the red zone, the team also looks to starting quarterback Brady Cook to find paydirt. Cook accounts for the most rushing touchdowns on the team (three). Last week against Kentucky, the Vanderbilt linebackers failed to prevent the run game. The Wildcats ran for 160 yards and three rushing touchdowns—78 of which came from former Commodore Ray Davis. The focus will be on the Vanderbilt linebackers to readjust from last week and shut down the Missouri run game, stacking the box and forcing Cook to throw the ball to receivers. Stellar play from the middle of the defense will be crucial if the Black and Gold wants to improve their record to .500.

Vanderbilt will look to secure its first SEC win this year on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m. CST at First Bank Stadium. 

View comments (1)
About the Contributor
Grace Hall
Grace Hall, Deputy Sports Editor
Grace Hall (‘26) is from Belfast, Maine, and is majoring in public policy studies in the College of Arts and Science. Grace is also the vice-president of the Vanderbilt Club Field Hockey Team. When not writing for The Hustler you can find her watching the Boston Red Sox or Celtics, reading or at a concert. You can reach her at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (1)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Molly Ross
7 months ago

Super article! A great analysis of the issues facing the team, while still maintaining Commodore pride!