NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With just two games remaining – both of which are on the road – along the long journey that is Year 1 with head coach Clark Lea, the Commodores have shown no signs of metaphorically throwing in the towel.
That much has been clear to Lea.
“Are they interested in continuing along this journey and this process? The answer that is absolutely,” Lea said Tuesday. “Does that, in and of itself, turn our results? No. We have to address that 21-point swing in the second quarter (Saturday against Kentucky in a 34-17 loss) and know that, again, our margin for error is so small. The football part of this isn’t challenging to decode. We have to establish a run game. We have to generate shots on offense. We have to protect the quarterback. Those things are things that everyone can see.
“But as far as the emotion and the mentality of the team, they’re with us to fight. That’ll continue to be a characteristic of this Team 1. We’ve got two games here to finish the season, both on the road. We have to be road warriors. They’re going to bind together and we’re going to take our swing and I’ve got no doubt that we’ll give it our best effort.”
Lea and his Dores will once again be looking for that complete game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday when it steps onto the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi, against the 10th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. It’s a major challenge for Vandy (2-8, 0-6 SEC) going against one of the more-challenging outfits in the league while hoping to break a five-game losing streak.
The latest setback in that stretch was the loss to the Wildcats where Vandy fell behind 31-3 in less than 19 minutes. And while the Commodores outscored Kentucky 14-3 in the second half, it was little consolation after digging much too massive of a hole.
“Again, we’ve said a bunch, our margin for error here is small and there’s a lot of ownership within those breakdowns on the coaching end of things, how we teach things, how we better position our players,” Lea said. “Obviously, like always, on the execution part of things, the details, making the play that presents itself. It’s frustrating, but I was proud of the way we finished.
“We’ve yet to play a four-quarter game this year and I’d be really excited and interested to see what this team is capable of if we can put four quarters together. Starting fast, playing strong through the middle eight and then finishing the game off we’d be at least able to see exactly what the potential is here in Team 1.”
Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC) has won back-to-back games and its only two losses are to No. 2 Alabama and Auburn. The high-scoring Rebels have put up 36.9 points per game (15th nationally) and have the nation’s third-best rushing offense (239.8 yards per game).
Quarterback Matt Corral throws for 277.4 yards per game and runs for 52.4.
“Well, the first thing is you’re dealing with a high-octane offense that has obviously proven through the season to be explosive,” Lea said. “They have a really good quarterback. They have good running backs. They have a good receiver corps. They have a good scheme and design that stress you with tempo. Those are things that create exposure and we have to limit exposure. We do that by generating stops, by making sure that we’re executing the plan defensively, that we’re aligned when the ball is snapped and that we’re capable in terms of our conditioning of playing through our technique to win. It also means offensively that we’re able to extend drives and control the clock.
“We can’t allow for Ole Miss to get rhythm and we certainly can’t afford to turn the ball over and do things that get them more possessions in the game. So it’s going to be about neutralizing the offense. And in doing that on our offensive side of the ball, making sure that we’re finishing drives with points and finishing drives with touchdowns because they’ve proven the ability to score.”
After Saturday’s trip to Ole Miss the Commodores will conclude the regular season with a visit to Tennessee on Nov. 30.
Davis Done for the Season
Vanderbilt defensive tackle Daevion Davis will have season-ending surgery this week and will miss the final two games of the Dores’ season. A team captain, Davis is 10th on the Vanderbilt defense with 24 tackles.
Davis has also made 2 1/2 tackles for loss, 1 1/2 sacks and broken up six passes in his third season for Vandy. But more than the numbers the Alabama native has been a constant leader for the Dores on and off the field.
“We hurt when Daevion hurts. He has been a heartbeat and one of the main arteries of the team since the beginning. He’s a captain. I can’t say enough about his level of investment and sacrifice for this program,” Lea said. “It was hard for me to see him in pain on the field. I was not shocked to see him back on the sideline to finish the game. It’s the kind of guy he is. I am obviously excited to support him through his recovery in full. I know he’s going to attack this as he attacks everything and it’s going to set a standard for us in terms of what it means to recover and come back stronger than before.
“I’m excited for him to continue in a role as a leader and a mentor to our program through the finish of the season. So tough news for everyone here with Daevion, but also an opportunity for him to continue to make a great impact on what we’re building here.”
• Ole Miss leads the series against Vanderbilt 53-40-2.
• During his playing career, Lea went 0-3 against Mississippi in games that were decided by a total of 13 points.
• Vandy safety Dashaun Jerkins is tied for 20th nationally with three interceptions.
• Vanderbilt punter Harrison Smith ranks 44th nationally with 42.9 yards per punt.
• The Commodores are still the only team in the SEC to have at least four players with multiple interceptions.
• Vanderbilt has recorded at least one interception in seven straight games.
• Vandy last recorded a pick in eight consecutive games from Nov. 29, 1997 through Oct. 24, 1998.
• Vanderbilt’s 12 interceptions are its most since the 2018 team recorded 13.
• Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals now ranks seventh in Vanderbilt history with 312 career completions
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.