NASHVILLE – Vanderbilt reached the halfway point of preseason practice on Saturday morning by staging an energetic, 90-play scrimmage on the John Rich Complex.
“I think these guys have had a great camp,” head coach Derek Mason said. “We needed to come out and work some situations. We put them in some backed-up, red-zone, short-yardage and other situations. Today was a good day just making sure we covered the scenarios we needed to. I was proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
With the first day of fall classes scheduled next Wednesday, the Commodores will now turn their focus toward preparing for the Sept. 1 season opener against Middle Tennessee.
A drive-by-drive summary of the scrimmage follows:
Drive 1: It did not take long for the offense to get going. On the second play from scrimmage, Kyle Shurmur connected with Jared Pinkney who hauled in a 35-yard, over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the end zone.
Drive 2: The defense answered back as defensive back Alim Muhammad registered a tackle for loss on second down. Two plays later, with the offense facing 4th-and-8, defensive back Zaire Jones applied the hit on Pinkney, breaking up a laser from Shurmur for the turnover on downs.
Drives 3-4: Linebacker Andre Mintze recorded his first of two sacks on the day, getting to quarterback Mo Hasan on a 3rd-and-10. On the following drive, linebacker Alston Orji halted the run on a 2nd-and-long before the defense forced Hasan out of the box on consecutive plays to halt the possession.
Drive 5: The first takeaway of the day came courtesy of linebacker Dimitri Moore who disrupted a screen play and grabbed the tip ball for the interception of Shurmur.
Drive 6: Following the pick, Shurmur settled in, connecting with wideout C.J. Bolar before turning to running back Khari Blasingame who busted through a big hole from the offensive line for 20 yards and followed that carry with an 8-yard gain off the right side. Ke’Shawn Vaughn provided the next touch, picking up a first down at the opposing 8-yard line with a 5-yard gain.
The defense clamped down, however, as LaDarius Wiley met Vaughn in the backfield and Joejuan Williams provided a pass break-up on 3rd-and-goal. Placekicker Ryley Guay, who drilled all three extra-point attempts on the day, finished the drive by converting a 24-yard field goal.
Drive 7: Defensive back Zaire Jones provided the strong coverage, forcing an incomplete pass from Shurmur on 4th-and-3 during a drive that also saw linebacker Caleb Peart provide outstanding coverage.
Drive 8: Linebacker Josh Smith got into the backfield for a 1-yard loss on the first play of a simulated red-zone drive. Running back Josh Crawford responded with a six-yard rush on 2nd-and-long, setting up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Shurmur to wideout Trey Ellis.
Drives 9-10: With Hasan on for his first red-zone drive, Mintze broke through the line for a 7-yard sack. Not to be outdone, linebacker Michael Owusu followed with a 4-yard sack before Blasingame put the offense back in field-goal range with a nice rush. Guay entered, draining a 39-yard field goal to cap the possession. Hasan returned for his second red-zone drive and was greeted by another Owusu sack. Linebacker Brayden DeVault-Smith closed the drive by shutting down a screen pass.
Drive 11: Hasan found tight end Gavin Schoenwald, who plowed forward to convert a 3rd-and-4. Running back Josh Crawford added a nice rush to set up a 3rd-and-short later in the drive. Following a pass interference call, Kade Mayle came unevaded off the end for the sack. Wideout Amir Abdur-Rahman added a catch outside to move the unit back into field goal range.
Drive 12-13: With quarterback Allan Walters on, the freshman turned to fellow first-year back Mitchell Pryor, who put together first-down rushes of seven yards and five yards in addition to a 17-yard gain up the middle. Walters also connected with tight end Cody Markel for a 5-yard gain, doing so as linebacker Alex Brown applied the pressure.
Drive 14-15: The Commodore offense worked out of their own end zone on a pair of simulated drives from the 1-yard line. On the first play, Vaughn broke through for a big gain through the left side and Jamauri Wakefield made a nifty move for extra yards on a pickup of his own.
Drive 16: The offense set up inside the 10-yard line, using three rushes from Vaughn to find paydirt. The back put together rushes of three and four yards before powering it home on 3rd-and-goal with a 1-yard rush up the middle.
Drive 17-18: The offense set up shop at the opposing 1-yard line on consecutive drives. Shurmur found Pinkney for the second time on the day, this time coming at the back of the end zone. On the second drive, Colin Anderson and Moore stuffed a Wakefield on a rush up the middle but one play later, the back broke through the line for the score.
Drive 19: The Dores ran through a pair of two-minute drills with Hasan beginning the first drive at his own 40-yard line. The quarterback found CJ Bolar for a 13-yard gain out-of-bounds. Later, Josh Crawford added a six-yard scamper on 3rd-and-2. The defense bounced back, however. After forcing a 4th-and-10 at its own 36-yard line, Owusu got to Hasan for the sack.
Drive 20: With the offense at its own 20-yard line, defensive end Dare Odeyingbo swatted down a Shurmur pass attempt. Facing a 4th-and-10, defensive back Donovan Sheffield closed the simulated scrimmage with an interception.
Special Teams Notables:
Place kicker Javan Rice went 1-of-2 on field goals for the day, drilling a 37-yard attempt after misfiring earlier in the day on a 45-yarder. The Miami, Fla., native hit both extra-point attempts. In addition to field goal conversions from 39 yards and 24 yards, Guay also made all three PATs.
Graduate transfer punter Parker Thome downed a ball inside the opposing 14-yard line in addition to being used throughout the practice as a holder on extra-point and field-goal attempts. Freshmen punters Pierson Cooke and Harrison Smith also saw repetitions during the scrimmage.