Commodores Set to Tangle With Tigers

Vandy hosts Missouri on Saturday before heading into bye week

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Vanderbilt looks to close out the month of October, it could see itself being in an advantageous position of allowing itself able throw all its eggs in the proverbial basket going into the weekend.

A bye week follows Saturday’s contest against Missouri and ends a long and arduous stretch of eight straight games to begin the season for the Commodores. The last three of those eight have all been defeats for head coach Clark Lea’s squad.

“At the start of this climb and at the start of this journey we are really interested in seeing how the nucleus of this team forms through adversity,” Lea said Tuesday. “So really keeping a close eye on our locker room and the guys that are rising in this moment and stepping up in this moment and deepening their levels of preparation and becoming hungrier for that result and learning about how to derive result through preparation.

“It’s all a process and it’s all learning and we’re early in on it but I’m excited to see how this team responds and prepares themselves for a tough challenge this weekend.”

Vandy started the early part of this week looking to recover from a 45-6 loss to Mississippi State. That was a setback hard to swallow because it was juxtaposed with a one-point defeat to South Carolina the week before which had seemingly proved how close the Commodores were to their first SEC win of the season.

But the Bulldogs had nearly 400 more yards of total offense than Vandy, held the Dores to just nine yards on the ground and held possession for nearly 2/3 of the game. Lea’s team fell behind 10-3 after one quarter and 24-3 after two. It also finished 1-for-11 on third down.

The Commodores never were able to mount any semblance of a comeback after the halftime break.

“We’re not capable right now of winning games unless we’re playing complementary football. When our defense steps up and makes a play we have to seize that momentum. As an offense we have to be ready to counterpunch,” Lea said. We have to capitalize on those situations and maximize those. So it’s frustrating. But in the end it’s just another opportunity to teach it. We continue to teach it until it becomes a part of us.

“I do feel like we’ve minimized our self-sabotage with pre-snap penalty issues and things that were showing up earlier in the year, but it’s a complete game that we’re after and when you’re making those mistakes you’re not playing a complete game.”

Missouri will come to Nashville fresh having taken the weekend off Saturday. But before that the Tigers (3-4, 0-3 SEC) had lost 3 of 4 and 4 of 6 with wins coming against Southeast Missouri State and North Texas, respectively.

Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s team has one of the nation’s worst defenses, statistically, but throws for nearly 290 yards per game and converts half of its third downs.

“They’re really well-designed,” Lea said of the Missouri offensive attack. “We faced (Drinkwitz) at Notre Dame when he was at NC State and we were impressed with the operation there and he has maintained parts of that. There’s also been evolution – he uses tempo as a weapon, he uses the perimeter screen game as a weapon, a stretch running game that’s really effective. It’s just a smart design.

“He does a really good job. He knows how to put pressure on the defense. We’ll have a challenge, for sure. I do think that the past three games that we’ve played will prepare us for this because I think this offense has bits and pieces of each one that we’ve played against. So I’m excited for our defense and I know that they’re excited, too.”

Missouri leads the all-time series against the Commodores 8-4-1 with nine of those matchups coming since 2012.

Vanderbilt will be looking to snap a 17-game conference losing streak that started after a 2019 win over … Missouri.


• Vanderbilt and Missouri first met in 1895 and 1896, then just twice (1958 and 1959) between then and 2012. Vandy is 3-6 against the Tigers since 2012.

• Vandy safety Dashaun Jerkins is tied for seventh nationally with three interceptions. Jaylon Foster of South Carolina leads the country with eight.

• Vanderbilt punter Harrison Smith is ranked 38th nationally with an average of 43.8 yards per punt.

• The Commodores have recorded multiple interceptions in four straight games for the first time since 2011.

• Vandy’s 10 interceptions are tied for the ninth-most in the nation and more than the previous two seasons combined (8).

• Vanderbilt and Alabama are the only teams in the SEC that feature at least three players who have caught multiple interceptions.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.