There are two narratives for Vanderbilt's latest full-squad scrimmage Saturday. Either the offense was terrible, or the defense was amazing.
Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers combined for more interceptions than touchdowns last night, as the pair threw three picks while the team's offense found the end zone only twice in 21 series at Dudley Field. Two fumbles meant that the Commodores ended nearly 25 percent of their possessions with turnovers. Smith and Udom Umoh connected for the team's only passing touchdown of the night, a six-yard strike. The Tennessean has a more comprehensive breakdown here.
A strong blitz package kept Smith and Rodgers on their toes all night, forcing bad throws in the limited-contact exhibition. Smith and Rodgers were unable to find a rhythm in the simulation (EDIT: though, in fairness, several of their passes were dropped by receivers throughout the night), which featured loud music piped in over the stadium's speakers to recreate hostile crowd noise. The two-hand-touch tackling system also helped curb the offense's ability to break open big plays.
The 'Dores were impressive defensively, but unless Smith or Rodgers can keep the team's offense on the field, their efforts may be for naught. The 2010 season proved that Vanderbilt could hang with some of the SEC's best squads early on, but the wear of long defensive shifts and three-and-out offensive series often meant that the Commodores' D was tired and exposed in the fourth quarter. The team's offense will have to improve in order to allow a ballhawking secondary and underrated front four to carry Vanderbilt through a tough schedule.
Saturday's scrimmage wasn't encouraging in that respect. Smith and Rodgers undid a lot of the goodwill that they had built up through positive practice reports. With the run game limited by two-hand-touch rules, the team's passing attack couldn't stand up to the defensive pressure. That's a game plan that most SEC foes followed in 2010 - cutting out the team's ground game. Unless the offense can adjust to defenses that are focused on stopping Warren Norman and company, it'll be another long season in Nashville.