Saturday's game against Kentucky presented a rare occasion for Vandy fans - a pressure-free second half. Vanderbilt effectively shut down the Wildcats over the opening 30 minutes despite squandering three different scoring opportunities in the frame. Though the Commodores were up by three possessions at the break, players ran into the tunnel knowing that it should have been even more.
This motivation helped carry the team through to a 38-8 statement victory. It sent Vandy's seniors off at Dudley Field with the biggest SEC win the Commodores have posted in 40 years. More importantly, it brought the quest for a bowl game one step closer to reality in Nashville. With a strong finish, Vanderbilt could find themselves playing at LP Field come December, returning to the scene of their 2008 Music City Bowl championship.
- The emergence of the big three. Jordan Rodgers, Zac Stacy, and Jordan Matthews have given the Commodores an extra dimension that this team's offense hasn't had in decades, if ever. The Jordans may not have the sheer talent of Cutler-to-Bennett, but they also never had a running back as effective as Stacy back in the mid-2000s. These three, along with tight end Brandon Barden and receivers like Chris Boyd and Wesley Tate, give opposing defenses plenty to plan for in the days leading up to their matchups.
- Ryan Fowler's kicking. It wasn't much, but it was a steady performance from the redshirt junior. He made his only field goal attempt - a 32 yarder - with confidence and made all five of his extra point attempts. He won't win any awards for his performance, but he added an air of stability around the kicker position with a solid game against the Wildcats.
- Archibald Barnes: Hit of the Week. Boosh.
- Vanderbilt's opening drive. The Commodores opened the game by driving 49 yards and earning a first down at the Kentucky 26 behind a solid offensive attack and a couple of UK penalties. Then, everything fell apart. Logan Stewart picked up Vanderbilt's obligatory offensive lineman personal foul, and then Jordan Rodgers ate a nine yard sack to bring up a disconcerting fourth-and-30. Things worked out when the Wildcats botched a punt on their ensuing possession, but it drive still stands as a momentum killer and wasted opportunity that the Commodores can't afford to have this week against Tennessee.
- Red zone turnovers. Vanderbilt's third drive of the day was another journey that started at their own 20 and deep into Kentucky territory. On third-and-three from the UK 17 yard line, Rodgers forced a pass to the goal line that was picked off, stopping another early scoring drive in its tracks. The Commodores made up for the missed opportunity by stopping the Wildcats on their next drive and scoring on their ensuing possession, but it was another case of early frustration in a game that was otherwise a blowout.
Clock management. Vanderbilt got the ball back with 29 seconds left in the half at Kentucky's 13 yard line after Mychal Bailey fumbled a kickoff. Unfortunately, a controversial play kept them off the board as the half wound down.Facing second-and-10, Jordan Rodgers scrambled to his right and was marked down after a nine-yard gain. Though Rodgers dove close to the first-down marker, officials marked him just short and kept the clock running. Vanderbilt was set on the line with four seconds to go, but the referee was unable to set the ball with enough time for Vandy to clock the ball and run one final play. The blame here isn't completely on Rodgers, but he has to be more aware of his surroundings in the future. This was the third scoring opportunity that the Commodores blew in the first half alone, ending at UK's 26, 17, and 4 yard lines, respectively. They won't be able to get away with that in their final two (three?) games of the season.
- The attendance: 33,718 for a game where the athletic department was legitimately giving away tickets. This alone is the biggest obstacle James Franklin faces in turning the football culture around in Nashville.
The PiBB ICE Player of the Game: Zac Stacy
See: Video: Zac Stacy Dials In Beast Mode for details.