Turning the Page to November

Vandy looks ahead to off week before ending the season with three games in final month

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s latest defeat boiled down to a few self-inflicted wounds, self-inflicted wounds that festered over the course of 60 minutes leading to demise.

Now the Commodores (2-7, 0-5 SEC) go into an idle week having dropped four straight and 18 straight league games after a 37-28 setback to visiting Missouri on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

“As we’re scratching and clawing and building this program and fighting every day to get and get this thing to where it can be and know it can be, there’s a formula here that when executed is going to allow for us to find the results that we want,” Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea said. “Part of that formula is recognizing the control that we do have.

“There’s so much about performance that’s out of our control, but the control that we do have we have to be impeccable in ownership over that.”

Vanderbilt, leading the 14-10 in the second quarter Saturday, elected to run a fake field goal from the Missouri 34 with 22 seconds left on the clock. Kicker Joseph Bulovas had nowhere to go as he searched for daylight on the right side of the field but instead was dropped for a 5-yard loss.

Still, that play left Missouri just 15 seconds on the clock as it came out to start a drive from its own 39. Turns out 15 ticks was plenty of time.

Pass completions of 10 and 6 yards, respectively, put the Tigers at the Vandy 45. After a timeout with four seconds to go, quarterback Connor Bazelak took a snap out of the shotgun and waiting as long as he could before launching a desperation heave into the end zone.

Keke Chism rose above four Vanderbilt defensive backs to snatch the ball out of the air for a touchdown as time expired. Missouri was elated to take a 17-14 lead into the break.

“We have to have somebody go up and play the ball, knock it down,” Lea said. “Their guy was able to get up and grab it at the highest point. It was a disappointing swing that ultimately we had the chance in the second half to erase. So don’t want linger too long on it.”

After the two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, Vanderbilt was right where it needed to be after quarterback Mike Wright found Cam Johnson in the corner of the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown pass bringing the Dores within 30-28 with 3:11 to play. All Vandy needed was one defensive stop to get the ball back for a possible game-winning drive.

But Missouri running back Tyler Badie, who already had 181 yards rushing at that point, broke a 73-yard run down to the Vanderbilt 2. Backup quarterback Tyler Macon scored on a 2-yard keeper on the next play to ice the game.

It was another disappointing result given that the Commodores clearly showed some improvement and did enough in some areas to win. Wright ran for 152 yards and threw for another 122 while completing a trio of touchdown passes, running back Patrick Smith had 95 yards on the ground and Vandy scored its most touchdowns (4) since Nov. 14 (5 at Kentucky).

And it did all that with running backs Re’Mahn Davis and Rocko Griffin, quarterback Ken Seals and offensive lineman Ben Cox among the contributors out due to injury.

“We’re fighting. We’re not going to just run plays that we don’t feel like are going to be affective. We’re going to keep dialing in to our experience and what we feel like will be effective and that certainly includes a willingness to be creative and to think outside the box,” Lea said on the offensive performance. “The further we got the more we know about our personnel, the more we know about our personnel the more we know how to position them for success and that’s a coach’s job.

“Fortunately we were able to hit on those and we will continue to look for ways to be creative to maximize our skill and to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers. To me that’s just part of coaching.”

Defensively, Vanderbilt allowed more than 500 yards for the second straight week and for the fourth time this season. The special teams unit had a punt blocked and failed on the aforementioned fake field goal. Thus, once again, complementary football escaped Lea’s team for a full 60 minutes.

Vandy has two weeks now to rest and recuperate before arguably its toughest stretch of the season. The month of November includes the home finale Nov. 13 against Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC) before road trips to Ole Miss and arch-rival Tennessee, respectively.

Those three teams are a combined 16-8. The road will become more treacherous before it clears.

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