Unlike Alexander Hamilton, the Vanderbilt Commodores did indeed throw away their shot at an upset against the second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, instead falling 41-13 between the hedges.
Sure, the Commodores were young, scrappy and hungry, but that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
It’s the same old story, but this was a game in which Vanderbilt had some positive momentum to launch from, but couldn’t seem to get off the ground.
Here is your Commodore Brunch menu for this week.
First-half Misses, Second-Half Doom
Both Georgia and Vanderbilt have had problems starting games on the right foot this season, and for the opening few minutes of this game, Vanderbilt was actually the better team.
There was one problem, though: Vanderbilt wasn’t the team turning good offense into points.
Vanderbilt took three drives more than 50 yards in the first half, and only got six points to show for it. The Commodores got to the red zone and couldn’t put any touchdowns on the board. Instead of what could have been a 21-21 score at halftime, Vanderbilt faced an uphill 21-6 deficit at halftime.
Not all of this had to do with play calling. In fact, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig called a fairly solid game in the first half. Some of the slip screens were effective and running backs got some penetrations. There were still some issues, like not using running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn enough (again). But, for the most part, the running back rotation was solid and the play calls kept the defense guessing.
It was the execution that was the problem. For example, Vanderbilt ran a solid off-tackle run on 4th-and-1 deep in Bulldog territory. Running back Khari Blasingame was short of the first down by an inch because of a missed block right behind him. The play call was good, but the execution wasn’t there.
Of course, it also doesn’t help when you take multiple illegal procedure penalties throughout the entire game, effectively stifling your offense before it can even get a snap off. That has to change more than anything else.
In the end, Vanderbilt missed those potential opportunities to put up points and it cost them in the end. The second half of this game likely looks a lot different if it starts 21-21 rather than 21-6.
No Pressure, Lots of Problems
For the second consecutive week, Vanderbilt’s defense failed to put pressure on the quarterback and create penetration up front. As a result, quarterback Jake Fromm was able to gash the Vanderbilt secondary and Georgia’s stellar tandem of running backs put up a ton of yards. Georgia ran for 219 yards and threw for another 341.
On top of that, Georgia averaged 6.4 yards per rush and 16.2 yards per completion.
Much of this stemmed from the fact that Vanderbilt registered just one sack and two tackles for a loss. In addition, the Commodores didn’t even register a single quarterback hurry.
This was a high-octane Georgia offense that features a lot of talent. There’s a reason why Georgia is the second-ranked team in the country. Vanderbilt needed to slow the Bulldogs down to the best of their ability, but they didn’t do it.
Georgia’s offensive lineman definitely had a serious size advantage against the Commodore defense, but getting just one sack is not enough to beat anybody. If Vanderbilt wants to beat any other SEC opponents, it will need to find a way to get into the backfield and force quarterbacks into bad throws.
News flash: SEC quarterbacks will pick any secondary apart if given time to throw.
Taking Stock at the Halfway Point
Six games down, six to go.
What a long, strange trip it’s been to get to this point.
If you look at Vanderbilt’s record, the team is pretty much exactly where we thought they’d be. The Commodores sit at 3-3 with three non-conference wins against easy opponents and losses to Notre Dame, South Carolina and Georgia.
However, how Vanderbilt got to this point has been anything but what we expected. Vanderbilt went into South Bend and nearly came out with a win at Notre Dame and nearly lost to FCS opponent Tennessee State two weeks later.
With six more SEC opponents left on the schedule, anything can happen for the rest of this season. Vanderbilt’s next two opponents are in the Top 25 as of now in Florida and Kentucky. The next two weeks could be tough, and it’s very realistic that Vanderbilt could be staring down the last four games of the season needing to win three in order to make a bowl game.
On the other hand, three of those four final opponents are also towards the bottom tier of the SEC. Arkansas is having a rough season, Ole Miss isn’t doing too great either and Tennessee is…well, you know.
There’s a lot that could happen over the next month and a half for Vanderbilt. Next week’s performance will be a strong indicator of what’s to come. It’s very possible that Vanderbilt was just stymied by a far superior Georgia team and that a slightly elevated level of effort against Florida could make that game close.
It’s also possible that Vanderbilt continues TSU-like performances and loses the remainder of its games.
The rest of the 2018 season is a true mystery box. Who knows what’ll get pulled out next?