It wasn't pretty, but the Commodores won.
Vanderbilt continued their undefeated run in the James Franklin era with a tight victory over Connecticut Saturday night. The game was a showcase of inept offense and points off turnovers as the 'Dores dominated play but only came away with a three-point win thanks to Vandy's stout defensive play. Vanderbilt overcame a blocked punt and fumble return touchdown to pull out the victory.
Larry Smith was disappointing at quarterback, combining for three turnovers, including the fumble that Yawin Smallwood returned 64 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskies a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Jordan Rodgers was also unimpressive in limited time behind center.
Freshmen Jerron Seymour and Chris Boyd were inducted into the Vanderbilt circle of trust with strong performances against a BCS conference opponent. Seymour had 70 yards rushing on just 8 carries, including a 40 yard touchdown run in the first quarter that gave Vandy a 14-3 lead. Boyd put the team on the board to start, pulling down a 42 yard deep route early in the first quarter and showing off a new dimension of the Commodore offense.
Vanderbilt dominated the first half, but UConn came back behind a blocked punt and fumble return that gave the Huskies the lead in the fourth quarter. However, Vanderbilt's defense refused to let this team lose. Casey Hayward's 50 yard interception return tied the game at 21-21 and put the 'Dores in position to win this game as time wound down. Zac Stacy's 48 yard rush on the next Commodore possession put the team in place to win their first FBS victory under Franklin.
The win puts the team at 2-0 and just four wins from bowl eligibility. However, questions about the team's offense remain, as Smith and Rodgers failed to consistently lead the 'Dores on sustained drives throughout the game. This victory is a product of Vanderbilt's defense, but a strong indicator of how the team can perform in the SEC in 2011. A strong secondary will keep this team in games all season, but if the team's quarterbacks fail to perform in the clutch, it could be another disappointing season in Nashville.