NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With two full weeks to recover from a humbling, 55-3 loss at No. 2 Alabama, Vanderbilt will be looking to avoid its first losing streak of 2022 when it welcomes in No. 9 Mississippi at 3 p.m. Saturday at FirstBank Stadium.
The Commodores (3-2, 0-1 SEC) are coming off the first of two open weekends this season. They returned to the practice field Monday— after a three-day practice week last week—intent on righting the wrongs from that aforementioned defeat while beginning to game plan for the second of three straight top-10 opponents.
“It was great to have the week off and get back to work Monday. We had a chance to rejuvenate mentally and physically and for the guys to get a couple of days over the weekend to get home or just to relax. I think we needed that,” Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea said. “Love where we are as a team and know that there’s a lot of growth ahead of us. Obviously we have a challenge this weekend with a good opponent and we need to show up and play better than we did before the bye. I have full faith and confidence that we will.”
Vandy’s setback at Alabama was eye-opening for the Dores, a team that had been building some steam and momentum through four nonconference games. The Crimson Tide held Vanderbilt to 14 rushing yards and 115 passing yards.
More importantly, the Vandy offense mustered just three points after averaging 42 points in the first four games of the season.
The Commodores’ defense also had a rough day at the office by giving up 628 yards and a season-high 55 points.
“Just focusing on the little details,” Vandy senior linebacker Kane Patterson said of the defensive unit. “We watched the explosive play cut-up over the bye week, just seeing a little self scout and just seeing that we’ve got to execute a lot better. A lot of the plays that we’ve been blowing on defense are based on missed assignments and missed tackling. So we’ve been putting a big emphasis on that this week.”
Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0 SEC) entered the top 10 of the national rankings this week after a hard-fought, 22-19 win at home against Kentucky. The Rebels have left Oxford, Mississippi, just once in 2022 (a 42-0 victory at Georgia Tech).
Head coach Lane Kiffin’s team ranks fifth nationally in rushing offense with 261.8 yards per game and is seventh in scoring defense by surrendering just 11.8 points per contest. Freshman running back Quinshon Judkins is among the top 15 players in the country in rushing touchdowns (6), rushing yards (535) and rushing yards per game (107).
Ole Miss has won three in a row over Vandy since the Dores pulled off a 36-29, overtime triumph in 2018 in Nashville. The Dores lost last year’s matchup 31-17.
“We’re not interested in repeating that (2021) performance because it wasn’t good enough,” Lea said. “We look to build upon what we’ve learned this season to this point, capitalize on those moments where we’ve played well on defense, but also learn where we’ve conceded yards and points and look to put together a performance that makes it hard on them to move the ball.
“We haven’t talked at all about last season, nor will we. Nor did we leave Oxford feeling good about any part of that. This is about winning games. We’ve got to play better.”
Saturday’s game for Vanderbilt is its annual homecoming contest and the matchup will be televised live by the SEC Network.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.