You can be certain a Florida Gator returner will feel Carey Spear's rage next week. There will be blood.
It had been a long time since an unranked Vanderbilt Commodores football team played that well against a top ten team at home. Despite thoroughly outplaying the eighth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, a few unfortunate plays derailed what would have been the greatest victory yet in the early James Franklin era.
Consider the following:
- Vanderbilt outgained the conference-leading Arkansas Razorbacks in Total Offense 462-388.
- Vanderbilt outrushed Arkansas 222-72, holding the Razorbacks well below their new (and lower) 140.3 rushing yards per game average.
- Vanderbilt held (and outdid) Arkansas to a paltry 5-of-15 third down conversion rate.
- The Commodores won the time of possession 31:34 to 28:26.
A costly, uncharacteristic fumble from Zac Stacy late inside the Razorback 5 yard line prevented the Commodores from capitalizing on the opportunity to push the score to a 35-20 advantage and perhaps spoiled what could have been Zac Stacy's greatest game wearing the black and gold. The Commodores could have used a little luck from the oblong spheroid on the play, but it was not to be as Arkansas' Jerry Franklin was able to scoop and score for a 94-yard TD that was the clear turning point in the game.
Indeed, the turnover battle was the one the Commodores lost. The Commodores had multiple opportunities to score defensive touchdowns of their own, as four potential interceptions bounced harmlessly off uncharacteristically stone-hands, three of which had "pick-six" written all over them.
The Razorbacks have made a habit of digging themselves out of holes that they dug themselves into. They survived another game; the Commodores should have finally made them pay.
Worst of all for the Commodores, Carey Spear's confidence level suffered a tough blow as he missed his potential game-tying, overtime-sending field goal attempt from 29. Frankly though, it shouldn't have come to that.
Though the result was particularly painful for Commodore fans, there are clearly some positive takeaways. Jordan Rodgers continued to show improvement under center. Both Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd played very well at receiver, perhaps giving us a glimpse of some future chemistry that could really help open up more running room for the stout Commodore rushing corps. The offensive line has come a long way from earlier this season and is opening some gaping holes.
The Dores have shown an outstanding ability to bounce back from tough breaks. This week will be another opportunity for Coach Franklin and the team to do so as they prepare to head to Gainesville.