— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 1, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt will make its 2022 home debut at FirstBank Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday against Elon.
The Commodores turned heads last time out with a 63-10 win at Hawai’i. Vandy totaled more than 600 total yards of offense and more than 400 yards on the ground. Quarterback Mike Wright ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more while racking up 309 yards of total offense.
Elon, under head coach Tony Trisciani, is coming off a 6-5 season that included a 5-3 mark in the always-tough Colonial Athletic Association. The Phoenix (0-0) played at Vandy once before in 2011.
Here is more on how to watch, listen to and follow Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to consider when the Commodores face the Phoenix:
When: 6 p.m. CT Saturday
Location: FirstBankStadium (40,375)
Television: SEC Network+ and ESPN+
Justin Kutcher (play-by-play), Dave Steckel (analyst), Ashley ShahAhmadi (sideline)
Vanderbilt Sports Network from Learfield
On-Air Time: 6 p.m. CT
Affiliates: Nashville WQZQ 93.3 FM; Chattanooga WALV 95.3 FM; Lewisburg WJJM 1490 AM, 94.3 FM; Memphis WMPS 1210 AM, 103.1 FM
Satellite: SiriusXM 203; SiriusXM online 966
Vanderbilt Athletics App (Free)
80 degrees at kickoff, 60 percent chance of rain
1. Wrangling the Wideouts
A preseason all-conference selection, Elon wide receiver Jackson Parham made 57 catches for 820 yards in 2021. The senior and New Jersey native had the the most receiving yards in a single season by an Elon wideout since 2012.
But Parham isn’t alone. Senior Bryson Daughtry had 35 grabs for more than 500 yards last season and Chandler Brayboy made 35 grabs for nearly 400 yards.
The Vanderbilt defense allowed 250 passing yards against Hawai’i and recorded three pass breakups. Most importantly, that unit didn’t allow a passing touchdown in a game for the first time since Oct. 10, 2020.
Vandy’s secondary will have to be even better than it was in its 2022 debut given Elon’s talented corps of wideouts. If Phoenix receivers are able to run open all night long at FirstBank Stadium it could spell disaster for the Dores.
2. Welcome to the Concrete Jungle
Vanderbilt is 1-11 in its last 12 games at home. That’s a statistic that Clark Lea certainly won’t harp on, but it’s a record he and the Dores are definitely aware of heading into Saturday’s home opener.
Thus, the second-year Vanderbilt head coach reiterated to his team after Thursday’s practice how important it is to protect its home turf – a turf that is new in a venue that is newly-named in a stadium that is scheduled to undergo a massive facelift at season’s end. Lea wants FirstBank Stadium to evolve into a venue in which the visitors rarely, if ever, leave victorious.
Vandy last had a winning record at home in 2018 (5-3). That’s also the last season in which it advanced to a postseason bowl game.
3. Ray, Runs All Day
Vanderbilt did a masterful job last Saturday in controlling the line of scrimmage and running the ball at Hawai’i. It certainly needs to keep that train going this weekend.
Even with Rocko Griffin being a game-time decision against the Phoenix, Vandy should have plenty of weapons in the ground attack with Wright, wide receiver Jayden McGowan, freshman running back Chase Gillespie and veteran Ray Davis. Davis averaged nine yards per carry on nine attempts last week in his return from a 2021 injury.
Elon only allowed 149.2 rushing yards per game last season while deploying a 3-3-5 defense. If Vandy can find running lanes against that scheme it should be in line for a second straight victory.
4. Stops on Third Downs
Elon was on of the best teams in the FCS in 2021 on third downs with a 42.9 conversion rate offensively in 2021. Vanderbilt did a masterful job last Saturday of holding Hawai’i on 11 of 16 third-down calls.
Furthermore, the Commodores’ defense made four fourth-down stops in the opener.
Vanderbilt’s defense must keep that kind of success rate going Saturday against what should be a methodical and patient Elon offense.
5. Takeaway Streak
The Vanderbilt defense has recorded at least one takeaway in 10 straight games dating to last season. And against Hawai’i, Nick Howell’s “hyenas” turned two of those takeaways into fumble returns for touchdowns, the first time Vanderbilt recorded two defensive touchdowns in one game since 2019.
Elon only turned the ball over 10 times last season meaning Vandy’s defense will have to get creative in order to get the pigskin to change hands. If they can do that it will go a long way in erasing the possibilities of an upset for the visitors.
(6.) So Many Points
With 63 points in the season-opener, Vanderbilt has set itself up for history going into Saturday’s game.
The last time Vanderbilt scored at least 80 points in its first two games was in 1970 when the Commodores beat Chattanooga 39-6 and The Citadel 52-0, respectively, for a total of 91 points. Thus, Vandy needs 28 points against Elon to tie that mark.
In 1916, Vanderbilt beat Southwestern and Translyvania, respectively, by a combined score of 128-0. The Dores would have to score a whopping 65 points Saturday to match that mark.
Of course, it’s likely no one will ever top the 1912 squad which opened the season with wins of 105-0 over Bethel and 100-3 over Maryville.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.