NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt was in no way satisfied with Saturday’s result in College Station, Texas.
The Commodores, big underdogs on the road at No. 10 Texas A&M, left on the wrong end of a 17-12 score. They forced three takeaways on defense, got a solid debut from a freshman quarterback and gave themselves numerous chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
That was little solace in the postgame locker room.
“It’s games like these that hurt. They leave a bad feeling in your stomach,” Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals said. “Like coach Mason has told us, ‘Don’t laugh it off, don’t think it’s funny. Let it fester, let it bother you. You got to embrace the discomfort you feel in games like this.’ I think that’s what a lot of guys are doing.
“I don’t think that because we were in the game that we’re feeling satisfied. But I do think that it puts notice to a lot of people around the league that this isn’t the same Vanderbilt that they’ve been playing in the past.”
Learn from it and onto the next..
— Ken Seals (@KenSealsQB) September 27, 2020
Seals finished 20-for-29 (69 percent) for 150 yards and completed his first career touchdown pass – a 7-yard strike to wide receiver Amir Abdur-Rahman with 2:45 left in the third quarter that got Vandy within 14-12. But Seals was also picked off twice (both times in the second half) had the Dores had five drives end on the Aggies’ side of the ball that failed to net points.
In the first game with offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, Vanderbilt was 7-for-17 on third down conversions. Running backs Ja’Veon Marlow and Jamauri Wakefield combined for 102 yards rushing and nine different receivers caught at least one pass.
So despite the lack of points on the board, there were certainly some indications Seals and company have a foundation in place to build on moving forward.
“I thought (Fitch) made this offense turn key for these players,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “He made it turn key for the quarterback as you saw for most of the night. We were able to take some of the stress off the offensive line with the balance of run to pass. Overall I thought it was great use of personnel.
“So for us, we changed some speeds at time. Went from normal speed to NASCAR. You saw us jump into different personnel groupings and I thought the tempo actually got to Texas A&M throughout the ballgame at different points in the ballgame.”
The defensive side of the ball was also playing its first content under the direction of coordinator Ted Roof. Vandy got fumble recoveries from Dashaun Jerkins, Jaylen Mahoney and Daveion Davis and also got a key fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M racked up 372 yards on offense only to see the Vanderbilt defense bow up when it mattered to hold the Aggies to 17 points.
“Our scheme really just allows us to fly around and play rather than thinking about it as much (as we did) in the past,” Jerkins said. “I just feel like him simplifying it down for us and just letting us go with who we know and what we do best, it really helps us play to our advantages.”
Vanderbilt now returns to Nashville to begin the first of five home games this season. It will welcome in the defending national champions and sixth-ranked LSU Tigers into Vanderbilt Stadium for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
That will Vandy’s next opportunity to continue to show its a team that fights – and is never satisfied with defeat.
“I’m confident in this football team wanting to get better. That’s what they’ve done,” Mason said. “They’ve practiced hard, they’ve earned the right to step out here and compete against everybody we line up against.
“I think these guys know and understand that we’ve got to get better. We talked about being better players, being a good football team – we got a lot to clean up. But I like the attitude of the locker room and the energy right now along with the leadership.”
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.