GOODFRIEND: Deuce Wallace deserved more snaps against Georgia

The junior quarterback played just the final series in Saturday’s 30-6 loss to Georgia

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GOODFRIEND: Deuce Wallace deserved more snaps against Georgia

Deuce Wallace throws on the run in a 30-6 loss to Georgia on August 31, 2019. Photo by Hunter Long

Deuce Wallace throws on the run in a 30-6 loss to Georgia on August 31, 2019. Photo by Hunter Long

Deuce Wallace throws on the run in a 30-6 loss to Georgia on August 31, 2019. Photo by Hunter Long

Deuce Wallace throws on the run in a 30-6 loss to Georgia on August 31, 2019. Photo by Hunter Long

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

The headline says it all.

If the quarterback competition really was as close as head coach Derek Mason said it was, he shouldn’t have waited to bring in Wallace until the last series of a 30-6 loss that was over well before then.

After the game, Mason admitted that the Commodores were unable to get the passing game going, which hurt the run game as well.

Graduate transfer quarterback Riley Neal threw mostly short, quick passes Saturday night, which was mostly by offensive coordinator Gerry Gdowski’s design. Gdwoski was calling plays for the first time since his days as an offensive coordinator at Ohio from 2010-2013, and he kept it relatively safe with a new starter under center and a young offensive line tasked with protecting him.

Georgia’s defense is one of the best in college football, so when they were able to neutralize the threat of Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the ground, Gdowski needed to respond with deep pass plays to spread out Georgia’s starting 11. 

To his credit, Gdowski did call a few long passes, but Neal often was pressured out of the pocket by Georgia’s front seven or prematurely took off running when a downfield receiver wasn’t immediately open.

Neal went 14-of-25 with 85 passing yards on the night, and his longest completion was a 12-yard pass to Vaughn at the end of the first half.

For Vanderbilt to win games in the SEC, whoever the quarterback is needs to get the ball to his playmakers even when a shaky offensive line limits his time in the pocket.

Tight end Jared Pinkney and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb, two of Vanderbilt’s Big Three on offense, both had disappointing nights. Pinkney caught two balls for 11 yards, and Lipscomb added eight receiving yards on three catches.

Vaughn, the third member of the Big Three, had the best night out of anyone on the team. He ran 15 times for 74 yards and was the team’s leading receiver with 24 receiving yards.

To be fair, Georgia is by far the best team Vanderbilt will play this season. LSU, which is the next opponent the Commodores face at home on Sept. 21, is the only other team with a defense that’s even remotely as talented as Georgia’s.

Wallace entered the game on the very last series, but the offense perked up a bit when he started taking the snaps under center.

Wallace lead the offense on a nine-play, 57-yard drive that was Vanderbilt’s second-longest drive of the night. Without any of the team’s stars playing alongside him, he still found open receivers and completed a 16-yard pass to Chris Pierce that was Vanderbilt’s longest pass play of the game.

He drove the Commodores into Georgia’s red zone with relative ease and looked comfortable going through his reads.

I’m not necessarily saying that Deuce Wallace should start against Purdue, but he should have played a few series as a change of pace and to give him experience against a great defense.

Wallace could have benefited from more snaps against a top-notch defense, especially considering that he, unlike Neal, has eligibility left next season.

Even if Mason sticks with Neal for the rest of this year, Wallace or someone else on the roster will have to start next year.

So why not give Wallace some experience against one of the most talented defenses in the country?

The game was essentially over by the end of the first half, even though the defense did an impressive job limiting Georgia to nine points in the second half.

Considering that Neal only completed three of 12 passes in the second half, it surely would not have hurt to put Wallace in the game for most, if not all, of the fourth quarter.

If Neal struggles early against Purdue next Saturday, I would hope that Derek Mason puts Wallace into the game for at least a few series to see if the spark he provided in his lone series against Georgia returns.

And if Wallace does get into the game against Purdue and plays well, Mason could have a quarterback battle again going into a bye week.

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