NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After Saturday’s loss to South Carolina, Vanderbilt senior Dayo Odeyingbo had something to say to his teammates.
“There’s an extremely fine line between wins and losses regardless of the scoreboard,” Odeyingbo said. “I truly believe this is a winning football team and I told them that. I just think we need to come out here on Saturday and show the world that we are a winning football team.”
The Commodores are looking to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1998 when that team started that season 0-6. Of course, the 2020 season is unlike other that has come before.
That was certainly apparent Saturday in the 41-7 defeat to visiting South Carolina at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt had just 56 scholarship student-athletes available at kickoff due – in part – to the COVID-19 pandemic and Vandy’s depth wore down in the second half as the Gamecocks scored 31 points over the final two quarters.
But Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said that despite Saturday’s setback, Odeyingbo’s sentiments about the direction of the season echoed his own.
“I don’t want this team to lose confidence in its ability to play football,” Mason said. “In looking at this, I said, ‘Fellas, you’re a couple plays away from this game going exactly the way you wanted it to go. Don’t get lost in the idea that all is for naught.’
“So let’s not let it get ugly, let’s let it grow. Let’s let it be exactly what it can be by just making sure that we continue to strain and focus and follow the process and detail the plan.”
Vandy’s one-play-away narrative is backed up by the numbers – both inside of the 60 minutes Saturday and for the season to this point.
The Commodores were 1-for-11 on third down against the Gamecocks and 0-for-4 on fourth down. Converting more of those plays than they did would certainly have changed the direction of multiple drives.
Vanderbilt was also 0-for-2 in the red zone and missed another field goal. For the season the Dores are now 3-for-8 inside the 20 and 1-for-4 on field goal attempts.
“I think it just comes down to execution,” Vanderbilt tight end Ben Bresnahan said. “(Offensive coordinator) coach (Todd) Fitch is calling a great game and you see that with us moving up and down the field. But it comes down, like in the red zone, to scoring points. And we just can’t leave any opportunities and point on the board.
“We have a great gameplan going in every single week and we feel really prepared. It just comes down to us, the players making plays, and doing the best we can to put points on the board.”
Vanderbilt now begins a stretch of three of the next four games away from Nashville with the lone home game coming against Ole Miss on Oct. 31. Mason said he takes on the full responsibility of having his team prepared for those contests.
He also wants Saturday’s loss to be a turning point for his team
“At the end of the day we just got to be better. We will be better,” Mason said. “I got a lot of confidence in this group and I just told them this will be the turning point. ‘You played three games, you got to see exactly where we’re at.’ It’s a good sample size, but it’s not where we want to be.
“We just got to make sure that we get healed up, we get to it on Sunday and we get a chance to focus forward and figure out exactly what we need to do to go beat Missouri.”
• Odeyingbo and Anfernee Orji now lead the Commodores in tackles with 18 each.
• Odeyingbo is now eighth in Vanderbilt history with 26.5 tackles for loss. James Manley and Jamie Duncan are both seventh with 28 each.
• Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals now has three of the top six totals for passing yards in a game by a Vanderbilt true freshman in program history. Kyle Shurmur holds the school record with 209 against Tennessee on Nov. 28, 2015.
• Seals ranks 37th nationally with a completion percentage of 61.7
• As a team, Vanderbilt ranks fifth nationally with just 10 penalties and is seventh with four fumbles recovered.
• Missouri leads the series with Vanderbilt 7-4-1.
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.