In Search of SEC Road Win

Commodores face Ole Miss Saturday night in Oxford

Vanderbilt Commodores (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Ole Miss Rebels (2-3, 1-1 SEC)

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Oct. 5, 2019 • 6:30 p.m. CT
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium • Oxford, Miss. • 64,038

SEC Network
Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst), Cole Cubelic (sideline analyst)

WLAC 1510 AM / WNRQ FM 98.3
Joe Fisher (play-by-play), John Gromos (analyst), Mitch Light (sideline)

• Vanderbilt makes its second road trip this Saturday, going to Oxford, Mississippi to face Ole Miss. The Commodores are in search for their first Southeastern Conference victory after early-season losses to Georgia and LSU. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

• Vanderbilt has faced one of the nation’s most difficult early-season schedules. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Commodores were the only team in the nation to have faced two top-5 opponents in No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU. Vanderbilt was also one of five FBS teams to open with three Power 5 opponents in Georgia, Purdue and LSU.

• The Vanderbilt-Ole Miss series, once known for producing long winning streaks by both sides, has become extremely competitive in recent years. Since 2005, the Commodores hold a 8-6 advantage.

• The Commodores are looking to register a road victory in SEC play for the fourth straight year when they trek to Oxford. The Commodores recently have won at Arkansas (2018), Tennessee (2017) and Georgia (2016).

• Sophomore wide receiver C.J. Bolar is the only Vanderbilt student-athlete who hails from Mississippi. Bolar, who has six catches this year after hauling in 34 receptions as a freshman in 2018, is from Purvis. Lashawn Paulino-Bell (R-So., OLB) played at East Mississippi last year.

• Vanderbilt’s defense, especially its secondary, has faced a different task in the first four weeks. The unit has opposed veteran signal callers in multi-year starters Jake Fromm (Georgia), Elijah Sindelar (Purdue), Joe Burrow (LSU) and Ross Bowers (Northern Illinois). Both Fromm and Burrow are leaders of undefeated, top-5 teams and rank among the early candidates for Heisman Trophy consideration. Sindelar, who missed Purdue’s most recent game, ranks among Big Ten leaders in various passing categories. Bowers is a graduate transfer from California where he threw for 3,039 yards as a 12-game starter in 2017.

• Vanderbilt defensive line coach Jovan Haye will be honored as the Commodores’ SEC Football Legend during SEC Championship Weekend activities Dec. 6-7 in Atlanta. Haye was an All-SEC defensive end during his Vanderbilt playing career from 2002-04. Haye became a sixth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and spent six years in the league, playing for Carolina, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Detroit.

• Ten student-athletes have earned their first collegiate starts this season: BJ Anderson (R-Fr., CB), Daveion Davis (Fr., DT), Dan Dawkins (R-Fr., OG), Randall Haynie (R-So., CB), Kenny Hebert (R-Jr., OLB), Dashaun Jerkins (R-Fr., safety), Grant Miller (R-So., C), Harrison Smith (R-Fr., punter), Tyler Steen (R-Fr., OT) and Jonathan Stewart (R-So., OT). Three others were first-time starters in a Vanderbilt uniform: Riley Neal (Gr., QB), Cam Watkins (Gr., CB) and DC Williams, (Jr., CB).

• Twenty-one student-athletes have logged their first action as Commodores early in the 2019 season: Neal, Watkins, Williams, Ben Bresnahan (R-Fr., TE), Keyon Brooks (Fr., RB), Camden Coleman (R-Fr., S), Pierson Cooke (So., K), Daevion Davis (Fr., DT), Tre Douglas (R-Fr., CB), Rowan Godwin (Gr., OL), Justin Harris (Fr., S), Brandon Maddox (Jr., DT), Jaylen Mahoney (Fr., CB), Salua Masina (R-Fr., LB), Elijah McAlister (R-Fr., OLB), Scott Meyer (Gr., LS), Anferee Orji (Fr., S), Mitchell Pryor (So., RB), Leshawn Paulino-Bell (R-So., OLB), Javan Rice (R-Fr., K) and Justice Shelton-Mosley (Gr., WR/PR).

• Gerry Gdowski moved into the offensive coordinator role for the Dores this year. Gdowski is the longest-tenured Vanderbilt assistant, having been on campus since Derek Mason’s first year in 2014. For the last three years, Gdowski served as quarterbacks coach, helping mold three-year starter and current Kansas City QB Kyle Shurmur into the Commodores’ all-time leading passer.

• Four coaches are new to Derek Mason’s staff this season: Devin “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, Jovan Haye, Tim Horton and Matt Weikert. Fitzsimmons serves as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Haye, a former Commodore All-SEC defensive end, enters his first year as defensive line coach. Horton comes to the staff as running backs coach after extremely successful SEC tenures. Weikert serves as outside linebackers coach, coming from an 12-year tenure at Air Force.

• An 82-hour fundraiser for Turner’s Heroes that started at kickoff of the Vanderbilt-LSU game on Sept. 21 reached its initial goal of $50,000 early in the contest. The non-profit was founded this summer by Vanderbilt senior tight end Cody Markel to honor the legacy of former teammate and classmate Turner Cockrell. The money will fund a discovery grant focused on innovative pediatric cancer research in honor of Cockrell, who passed away Nov. 29, 2018, after a lengthy battle with melanoma. Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason and his wife, LeighAnne, committed $25,000 to the effort. For more information, visit TurnersHeroes.org.