NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Underneath the scoreline of a 54-21 defeat Saturday against Ole Miss at Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt saw a big step forward from its young quarterback.
Ken Seals, a true freshman, had his best game yet in black and gold. His career day started with 10 straight completions against the Rebels – and he was well aware of the streak.
“I was coming off the sidelines a couple times going, ‘I don’t think I missed one yet,’ ” Seals laughed. “It’s one of those things I shouldn’t worry about it too much, I’m just trying to do my job, do what my coach tells me to do and whatever I got to do for the team.”
After taking every offensive snap Saturday, Seals finished with 319 yards on 31 of 40 passing. He set the record for passing yards by a true freshman Vandy quarterback in a single game since 2000 and his completion percentage of 77.5 is the eighth-best by a Commodore quarterback in a single game in program history.
Seals hadn’t thrown for more than 150 yards in his previous three games this season.
“Offensively it was great to see a young Ken Seals continue to grow up,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said. “He’s doing a terrific job. He’s growing into the quarterback he needs to be.”
Seals also found the end zone twice for his fourth and fifth touchdown passes of the season.
Seals finished 15 of 18 passing in the first half totaling 158 yards.
“I think we felt comfortable in our tempo and our quick game,” Seals said on the reason for his success against the Rebels. “We saw that became more effective for us, especially whenever we got close to halftime and we had 1:53 left and we’re looking to get the ball down the field. Kind of had to use our fast-paced offense a little bit more than we had in the game. I think we saw that that worked for us.
“We came back to it a couple different times in the second half. I thought that was working well for us. But we still got a lot to do, a lot to work on this next week coming up.”
From Azle, Texas, and Weatherford High School, Seals already has 730 passing yards this season – that’s the fifth-most by a Vandy true freshman quarterback in a single season in program history. John Gromos threw for 1,483 in 1985.
Seals said not only can he sense himself improving, but he has confidence the offense is continuing to improve under first-year coordinator Todd Fitch. Six different Commodores caught a pass Saturday and the squad’s running backs totaled 107 yards.
Wide receiver Cam Johnson turned in the best game of his career, too, with 14 grabs for 97 yards.
Perhaps most importantly, Vanderbilt found the end zone three times after being held to 12 points or less in the season’s first three games.
“Obviously we’ve always been able to move the ball, but maybe in the past couple games we haven’t been able to finish drives,” Seals said. “A lot better job of us doing that and the line moving guys down there on the goal line and us being able to put the ball in the end zone whenever we got close.”
Vanderbilt (0-4, 0-4 SEC) now heads out on the road to face Mississippi State (1-3, 1-3 SEC) at 3 p.m. Saturday. And despite another tough loss at home, the Commodores have some positives to build on moving forward.
Their freshman quarterback is certainly part of that conversation as Vandy returns to the practice field and continues to move forward.
“We’re going to make sure that we get right back to work. That’s what you can do,” Mason said. “You’ll take the night, you’ll lick your wounds and then you’ll come back and you’ll get yourself restarted. That’s what we have to do.
“They understand that we have work to do so we will get back to work, we’ll be better for it and what we got to do now is be forward-focused, be accountable, stick together and be united through this process and make sure we find ourselves getting from today to tomorrow.”
• Ole Miss now leads the series with Vanderbilt 53-40-2.
• Vanderbilt is 0-4 for the first time since 1998.
• Bresnahan set a career high with 72 receiving yards.
• Johnson set a career high with 14 receptions.
• Johnson became the first Commodore with at least 11 receptions in a game since Kalija Lipscomb totaled 11 against Notre Dame on Sept. 15, 2018.
• Keyon Henry-Brooks scored Vanderbilt’s first rushing touchdown of the season Saturday.
• Vanderbilt senior defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo now has 27.0 career tackles for loss, just 1.5 shy of the Vanderbilt top 10.
• Pierce had a career-high four receptions.
• Kicker Jared Wheatley recorded his first career punt Saturday.
• Kicker Wes Farley scored his first career point on his second quarter PAT.
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.