Download the pdf version here: Vandy Writeup pdf
Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores
Kickoff: 12:21 PM
TV: SEC Network
Hip, hip, hooray, we’re off the snide and we knocked off a hated rival to boot. All in all a great day of football…for once.
About the Tennessee game…
I can’t recall a team needing a solid outing like that anymore than we did. Much needed. The challenge now becomes grounding this team again so they’ll focus and give that effort or more each week. It shouldn’t be too hard as we can just point to our shiny 2-4 record as motivation.
The Good: Aaron Murray just continues to get better. The defense completely stuffed a UT running game that had been able to have some success at times. We decisively won a turnover battle which happens about once every 2 years for us. The breaks went our way for once and the results were less what you expect and more what you hope for. Trinton Sturdivant played essentially the whole game at OT which is the first time that’s happened since 2007. Great for him.
The Bad: The defense still gave up big plays in the passing game. UT exploited an inability of our safeties to get coverage on the deep boundary and did it multiple times. Our running game struggled to really dominate. It was effective late running out the clock but UT was pretty well gassed at that point. That’s pretty much it really.
The Interesting: How much better does the playcalling look when we execute? In all seriousness, I’ve been begging for us to throw more early in order to try and open up the running game later. Not that we did it for me but that’s what we did and it worked tremendously. Maybe Bobo is getting more comfortable calling plays with Murray, maybe we finally blocked things up better, maybe AJ really does give our offense that much pep, whatever happened I like it and I want more of it.
- Vandy’s offense probably most closely resembles Mississippi State’s. Before you freak out, remember we largely held MSU in check that night despite an offense that couldn’t move the ball at all. Very balanced in terms of yardage rushing/passing (172/179 yards per game respectively). Nothing spectacular though. It’s Vandy, and Cutler ain’t there.
- Jr. Larry Smith mans the QB spot. His 5 TDs on the season have already eclipsed his entire year last year. None of his TDs (and consequently none of his 3 INTs) have come in SEC play. In fact, Vandy gets considerably more conservative in SEC play where he’s yet to attempt 20 passes in a game this year while outside of conference play he’s attempted at least 25 per game. In SEC play he’s completing exactly 50% of his passes, which normally wouldn’t be good but is a step up from his 46.7% completion numbers last year. He’s very mobile though, which is something we’ve struggled with this year at the QB position.
- Warren Norman returns from his freshman of the year honors last year and is averaging over 6 ypc on the season. He’s also averaging over a reception per game. Backup Zac Stacy is averaging 7 carries per game and nearly 7 ypc so is clearly talented.
- The WR spot for Vandy doesn’t feature anyone explosive, more of a solid group. Sophomore John Cole leads the WRs in catches and through 5 games, is the only WR to average over 2 grabs per game. TE Brandon Barden leads the team in catches, yards and TDs, so watch him closely. Arkansas had success against us with the TE and I suspect we’ll see a fair number of drags and crosses featuring this guy.
- The Vandy OL is pretty young, or was coming into the season (thanks for not providing an updated depth chart Mr. Vandy SID). Their slated starting group featured only one returning starter (LG Kyle Fischer) and only 2 upperclassmen. Despite only surrendering 20 sacks of Smith all year last year they’ve already given up 13 this season.
- Bottom Line: This isn’t a great offense by any means. They can run the ball some though and they have a mobile QB which is always nice to keep drives going. Unfortunately for them the mobile QB isn’t particularly effective as a passer. I think I wrote the exact same thing for MSU though and they moved the ball against us at key points. The Grantham D has shown a tendency to get burned all season and even this past week, in probably our best outing all season, they gave up big plays several times. I think you’ll see a similar approach to what we saw last week with stopping the run being the #1 priority, and Grantham baiting Vandy into passing situations where our pass rush should wreak havoc. Hopefully that works as planned, I’ve just yet to see this pass rush I was expecting.
- Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: 3rd down conversions will be key to this game. Against MSU we managed to give just enough yardage seemingly every 3rd down to allow them to sustain their drives. Big shocker there as we’re 89th nationally in 3rd down defense. We’ve got to get better there.
- Vandy is actually very stout against the pass (15th in yardage allowed and 38th in pass efficiency D). They give up the funk against the run though, to the tune of over 180 ypg allowed. They are pretty inconsistent, giving up only 14 points to Ole Miss (who promptly turned around and hung 55 on Fresno State and 42 on Kentucky) yet giving up 40 to UConn the very next week.
- Not much to say about Vandy’s front 4. They lost Sr. Adam Smotherman in the spring, their only starter inside from last year. His replacement, So. Rob Lohr, has been exceptional though, leading all DL in tackles and tackles-for-loss. This group doesn’t get a lot of sacks. No one on the team has more than 1.5.
- MLB Chris Marve is very, very good. A close 2nd on the team in tackles, Marve is a squatty, side-to-side bowling ball that could easily play at the next level a la former Vandy LB Jamie Winborn. SLB John Stokes is very solid as well and is a load at 6-5, 235.
- The secondary lost playmaker Myron Lewis last year after losing DJ Moore the year before. Jr. Casey Heyward has filled that role nicely, with 4 INTs on the young season. Despite his stellar play, Vandy’s best DB on the season could very well be SS Sean Richardson who leads the team in tackles and tackles-for-loss. The LB-sized Richardson blossomed last year and has been steady this season as well.
- Bottom Line: Vandy isn’t a great defense, but they aren’t bad. They aren’t very good against the run (11th in the SEC) yet they lead the conference in tackles for loss per game (that’s a mouthful). They’re great against the pass yet they have very few sacks (10th in the SEC). If our TB depth were otherwise, I’d be tempted to try and go back to the running game, but without King and possibly without Thomas, I think we have to stick with the pass. Against a pretty stingy pass defense, this might be a real test for Murray. Murray’s played extremely well to date and if that continues, we should be fine offensively.
- Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: I’m going to pay close attention to Murray this week. I think we’re going to put even more of the offense on his shoulders with the absence of Caleb King this week. We might see some more designed short passes and more work to the TEs. Murray still has a lot of work to do in terms of speeding up his progressions and not locking onto 1 guy, but he’s still much better than I was expecting at this point. I hope to see that maturation continue Saturday.
The VU Game Overall
Last weekend was awesome and all, but at the end of the day we’re still 2-4 and looking up at the better part of the SEC from a ways back. Sure we finally put a solid effort together on both sides of the ball, but UT helped that out a lot by turning the ball over 3 times and generally playing like a bunch of orange-clad morons (my personal favorite UT scheme). We played smart football, got the ball to our talent, and allowed UT to self-destruct. Sure, we could’ve scored a ton more points Saturday but UT did everything they could to hand us the ball in ideal field position, over and over.
We can’t expect that string to continue. Richt’s good teams have always been characterized by their solid turnover ratios. Despite the current positive TO ratio, this is not a good Richt football team (not yet anyway…still 2-4 remember?). With AJ back, the OL changes making some progress there and the defense looking like they’re starting to learn, we have the potential to be a good team and, again, we still have to face 3 of our biggest rivals in huge games. Vandy isn’t one of those, but if you think for a second this isn’t a huge game, you’re crazy. Last year’s game was a bit of an anomaly in recent UGA-Vandy contests as we won handily. It’s time for us to continue on the return to respectability and frankly, I think the team we face this week does more for that than the one we faced last week (my how the Vols have fallen).
- Thank you Caleb King for the sobering reminder that this season is completely snake-bit. In case you were living under a rock this week, Caleb was arrested for a bench warrant or some such for failing to appear in court over a speeding ticket. The way he got arrested is even crazier as he was going to drive his car home from where his brother was getting arrested for driving without a license (a popular offense these days apparently). When he got there to pick up the car, the cops ran his license. OK, it’s dumb to not pay the fine, municipalities don’t just wipe those things away, but when I went to pick up a friend under similar circumstances, the cops sure as heck didn’t run my license. Maybe it was because Caleb was the owner of the car, but they ran both Caleb’s and Brandon Wood’s (who drove Caleb to get the car) licenses to assure they were clean. They sure as heck didn’t with me. Whatever. He’s out for 2 games and will be back against Florida, assuming he doesn’t do anything else between now and then.
- Congrats to Kenarious Gates for his start last week as a true frosh on the OL. That was much needed. Even bigger congrats to Sturdivant who made it through his first game in 2 years without injuring himself.
- I liked the look of Alec Ogletree. That kid certainly looks the part of a big-time safety. We just so happen to need a big-time safety as we’ve gotten very spotty play from Rambo and Hamilton. Hamilton finally got benched in favor of Shawn Williams last week.
- Cornelius Washington will apparently return to action this week. So will Marlon Brown. That’s two positions where we could seriously use the depth.
- Umm, I suppose we should be glad that Ogletree slightly missed the block on that down-the-line running block that he did on offense on Saturday. The guy turned at the last second, otherwise ‘Tree might’ve killed him.
- Achim’s K-Bob has apparently changed names and is now KEBA grill or some such. I never knew K-bob was referring to a kebob. I was putting the emphasis on the K. I suppose that was obvious to everyone else? It is apparently still the same sandwich, which I had at least 5 people tell me they couldn’t remember accurately either. Perhaps that’s more a statement as to the state of mind my friends and I were in during my college years. I definitely remember the pepperoni rolls and pokey stix from Gumby’s though. How the heck could these college kids let that place go? What am I supposed to eat in Athens at 3 AM now?
- I forgot to talk about this last week. Seriously, how big of a moron is Les Miles? The crap he pulls at the end of games is so far beyond lunacy I don’t know what to call it. Richt’s first year as a head coach he caught flack for some late game clock management issues and that was largely one bad call (Auburn) and one questionable call (Boston College). Miles has been a head coach for around 10 years now and still has no idea what the clock rules are or how to manage his time. Somehow, some way though he manages to win the large majority of these “brain cramp” games. Flash forward a week and not only does he call for the fake FG, he Miles-es it up a notch by having the holder bounce it to the kicker. I assume it was accidental but with Miles you honestly never know. It was the most absurd late game call I’ve seen since that Michigan State coach called for the fake against Notre Dame, and that one at least gave the guy a heart attack. Miles is like that lucky guy you play in playstation that goes for it on every 4th down and throws the Hail Mary on half his play calls just because he figures he might connect.
- Bama not only lost, they got trounced by South Carolina. What shocked me even more was looking through the SEC stats and seeing Bama last in the conference in sacks. Last. At exactly 1 per game.
- UGA VIII takes over the Saturday. Russ was an OK mascot and certainly had a strong 2009 campaign but he had a severe Sophomore slump, and just looked lethargic. I’m glad he was able to go out on a win though. Hey, he’ll always be able to say he was undefeated against Tennessee and Florida. The new fella looks pretty sharp though.
- The voters are going to have their hands full picking the All-SEC WR spots this year. You’ve got AJ, who might not make it because he missed a third of the season but likely gets in because he’s still freakishly good. You’ve got Darvin Adams at Auburn who is essentially their whole passing attack. You’ve got Julio Jones, who is like AJ only with far more hype and less production. You’ve got Terrance Tolliver at LSU who makes big play after big play whenever I’ve watched them this year (actually on 2nd inspection he hasn’t been that dominant). On top of all of those guys you’ve also got Alshon Jeffrey at SC, who is putting together an absolutely monster year. At this point, I’d probably go Adams and Jeffrey but with a full year of production I’d probably say Green and Jeffrey. It’s going to be hard to keep Green off if he keeps this up.
- A special congrats to Urban Meyer for finally confirming to all of those people who were waffling about whether he was a good guy or not that he’s actually a complete scumbag. In case you missed it, he allowed Chris Rainey back on the team despite sending a text to his girlfriend about a month ago that “It’s time to die, b**ch.” I loved the article that asked the question of how Urban would respond if that text had been sent to his daughter, reminding folks that Urban employed the whole “these are my kids” angle when he went after the report for supposedly misquoting one of his players (he didn’t). Thanks Urban. Timmy Tebow would be disgusted with you too.
Have a safe weekend,