Positive Strides Continue

Vanderbilt confident its continuing to move in right direction

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Time is running out for the Vanderbilt football team to put it altogether for a winning performance.

And despite four straight weeks of continuing to trend in the right direction, especially offensively, Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Pierce Jr. knows the Commodores haven’t peaked at all.

“I don’t think so. This isn’t our best,” Pierce said. “We’ve shown glimpses of what we can do, but we just have to be consistent. I think we haven’t honed in on that yet. It’s going to hurt now, but (Sunday) we’re going to get back to work.”

The Commodores dropped a 38-17 decision to No. 6 Florida on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. It was a game in which the home team led 7-0, trailed just 17-10 at halftime and only 31-17 going into the fourth quarter.

But the highly-ranked Gators were too much down the stretch and Vandy left the field on the short end of the scoreboard for the seventh time in 2020.

“I thought these guys prepared the right way,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said about the work going into Saturday. “I thought there were some opportunities there that we could have had and should have had.

“This ballgame came down to what we didn’t do.”

Mason alluded to several passes by Florida quarterback Kyle Trask that hung in the warm November air long enough to give Vandy defensive backs an opportunity for a breakup or interception – but instead fell into the hands of Gators’ receivers. And while the Dores totaled 406 yards of total offense for the fourth consecutive game, they came up short on 8 of 15 third-down plays and tossed a late interception.

The Commodores, trailing 31-17 in the fourth quarter, also got the game’s first turnover when safety Dashaun Jerkins stripped the ball and De’Rickey Wright recovered with 14:25 to play. But the Vandy offense shot itself in the football with an eight-yard loss on a first-down play at the Florida 26, incomplete pass, false start and another errant throw forcing a punt.

Florida scored on the following possession.

All that and more made Saturday’s final score another tough pill to swallow.

“With this group I’m going to continue to press on with how we need to strain and really who we are,” Mason said. “There were really enough plays out here in this ballgame to be made on offense on our part.”

Vanderbilt now turns its attention to its final home game of the shortened, SEC-only season. The Commodores (0-7, 0-7 SEC) welcome rival Tennessee (2-4, 2-4 SEC) for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at SEC Stadium.

Vandy will be going for its fourth win in five seasons over the Volunteers, but more importantly and more urgently, that first win of 2020.

“The goal every single week is to go 1-0,” Vanderbilt’s Andre Mintze said. “So whatever that takes we do our best at fulfilling that through the gameplay and through our calls and through every single thing. We have the same mentality week-in and week-out to go 1-0.”

Dores’ Salute to Service by Vanderbilt Athletics on Exposure

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.