Continuing the Journey

Commodores' comeback inches short in 38-35 loss at Kentucky

by Chad Bishop

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It would have been opportune for Vanderbilt, down 14-0 a little more than 11 minutes into the game Saturday, to fold up the tent and head home.

But Vandy head coach Derek Mason didn’t suspect for one second that his squad was going to quit competing.

“That’s not the case. That’s not going to be the case,” he said. “We decided a long time ago that we were going to make the journey and we were going to make the journey together.”

The Commodores, now 0-6 after six SEC games, played to the final whistle and came up an onside kick recovery short of having a possible shot at a game-tying field goal try in a 38-35 loss at Kentucky.

Vandy trailed by 17 with 9:14 to play, only to keep coming until time and offensive possessions ran out.

“Our kids are really working hard. We’re close,” Mason said. “I’ll continue to tell them we have to be able to go through this so we can get to it. They’re not going to back down.

“They’re going to fight for everything that’s out there. We just want to be a little bit more consistent and make sure that we’re not waiting until the end of ball games to play the type of ball that we want to play. We want to play that for 60 minutes, for four quarters.”

A couple key moments somewhat dictated Saturday’s outcome.

Kentucky (3-4, 3-4 SEC) came out inspired and ignited.

The Wildcats received the opening kickoff and then sliced their way down the field in less than five minutes to take a 7-0 lead on Terry Wilson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Justin Rigg. About seven minutes later it was Wilson running in from 32 yards out making it 14-0.

But then Vandy found its offensive footing.

Chris Pierce caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ken Seals and Ben Bresnahan hauled in a 2-yard toss from Mike Wight on a fourth-down play. Vanderbilt had pulled within 21-14.


Momentum was all on the visitors’ side until a back-breaking play from Wilson ended the half. On 3rd-and-26, Wilson scrambled for a 27-yard run to the Dores’ 19.

Three plays later, Chance Poore booted a 28-yard field goal at time expired in the half. Those three points proved to be the difference in the final score.

“We weren’t seeing anything that we weren’t prepared for. It was just a matter of they won the rep whenever the play was ran,” Vanderbilt defensive back Allan George said of allowing 24 points in the first half. “Our coaches had gotten us prepared throughout the week of all the looks and we knew what type of formations we were going to be seeing because Kentucky does a lot of funky, unbalanced formations. We knew what we were going to see, it was just a matter of were we going to stop it or not?

“We just had missed tackles, guys lost leverage.”

After getting down 31-14 in the third quarter, Wright’s 2-yard run cut the deficit back down to 10 again with 2:53 left in the period. And when Chris Rodriguez broke off a 74-yard run to the house, Vandy kept clawing to score with 3:13 to go (a 2-yard Mitchell Pryor run) and with 30 ticks remaining (a 7-yard pass from Seals to Cam Johnson).

Vanderbilt’s offense was 11 of 17 on third down, averaged 5.1 yards per play and played turnover-free football for the first time in 2020.

“As we’ve been able to play games, since we’ve been back, every week I think we’ve gotten better,” Mason said. “It took that time during the bye and that little bit of of time, to really start to have the quarterbacks and receivers starts to understand how we all work together and where guys need to be playing week to week.

“We’re going to continue to see these guys get better and what we got to do all the way around is make sure that we can take it week to week and make the necessary changes to put ourselves in position to get a win.”

The Commodores now return home for their final two home games of the season when they host No. 6 Florida at 11 a.m. Saturday and Tennessee on Nov. 28.

“They’re playing their butts off, we just need a little more. That’s it,” Mason said. “We’re going to get to it because I know these guys want to get to better. They love practicing.

“Right now what we got to continue to do is just make sure no matter how we play and the physicality of our game shows up. Right now it’s not consistent.”

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.


Dores Clash With Cats by Vanderbilt Athletics on Exposure