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The Commodore Review: How Vanderbilt Really Looked in Their 7-17 Loss at Kentucky

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Vanderbilt's defense kept them close with Kentucky, but a complete inability to find a rhythm on offense led to a 7-17 loss. Wade Freebeck was hounded by the Wildcat pass rush all afternoon and Vandy's porous blocking kept Derek Mason from notching his first SEC victory.

It's not your fault, Wade. It's not your fault.
It's not your fault, Wade. It's not your fault.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Through five games:

Vanderbilt's starting quarterbacks: 1 touchdown.

Darrius Sims: 3 touchdowns.

That's not a statistic Karl Dorrell and Derek Mason can be particularly proud of. The Commodore offense sputtered once more on Saturday and gained just 139 total yards against Kentucky. While the Wildcats looked better than they had in the past three seasons, Vandy's anemic blocking prevented the 'Dores from ever getting into an offensive rhythm or threatening to win this game despite shutting out UK in the second half. Only Vandy's improved defense kept this team from getting blown out in Lexington.

If you're keeping track, here's how Vanderbilt's touchdowns have been distributed for 2014 so far:
Touchdowns
Opponent Offense Defense Special Teams
Temple 0 0 1
Ole Miss 0 0 0
UMass 3 1 1
South Carolina 2 0 2
Kentucky 0 1 0
Total: 5 2 4


Vanderbilt has played the majority of their games this season without scoring an offensive touchdown. Ugh. Let's move on to the good/bad analysis.

The Good:

Darrius Sims. Sure, Patrick Towles may have telegraphed the interception that Sims returned 13 yards for a Commodore touchdown, but the sophomore standout showed once again that he will find opportunities to make big plays. Vanderbilt's leading scorer has yet to play a snap on offense.

The Vanderbilt defense. The 'Dores were still in this game in the fourth quarter thanks to a defense that bent but rarely broke against the Wildcats. That's a step forward from a unit that had given up 30+ points in their first four games of the season.

The Bad:

Wade Freebeck's growing pains. Freebeck had the worst day a Vanderbilt quarterback has seen since...week two (good lord). The true freshman looked a lot like Patton Robinette had at his shakiest, struggling to identify passing opportunities and falling victim to the UK pass rush that treated the Vandy O-Line like a subway turnstile. His final line - 8-25 for 85 yards and three interceptions - should serve as motivation for the young player in practice.

Freebeck had six drives that crossed out of Vanderbilt territory. Here's how he did on each snap he took from happy side of the field:

  • Drive 1: Sacked (led to a punt).
  • Drive 2: Handoff, sacked, sacked (punt).
  • Drive 3 (technically, only the 50-yard line): Sacked (punt).
  • Drive 4: 6-yard pass, incomplete, interception.
  • Drive 5: Handoff, interception.
  • Drive 6: Incomplete, incomplete, interception.

In six drives, Freebeck completed one pass, was sacked four times, and threw three interceptions. He'll improve from there - partially because we saw him play much better against South Carolina, and partially because he can't get much worse. He won't get there unless his offensive line can protect him, however.

The inability to rely on Vandy's running game. VandyImport touched on it in his hangover, but the Commodores' insistence on being a pass-heavy team with a true freshman at the helm was enough to raise more questions about Dorrell's playcalling. However, Vanderbilt's inability to clear space for Ralph Webb and Jerron Seymour failed to give the team many options. Webb and Seymour combined for 77 yards on 16 carries, but 44 of those yards came on three big runs, leaving a 2.5 YPC crater that got the 'Dores nowhere.

On Saturday, turning to the run or the pass was the football equivalent of buying a lottery ticket. The potential for a big play existed - but it wasn't anything on which Vanderbilt could rely. Dorrell and the 'Dores were in trouble no matter what they did.

The whole Vanderbilt offensive line. Unless this week's whiteboard goal was "see if Wade can take more punishment than Groot," I think Keven Lightner is going to be pretty hard on his guys in practice this week. There were multiple plays were Freebeck finished his dropback and immediately had a blue jersey in his face. No Vanderbilt quarterback could have made those situations work, let alone a true freshman who is still adjusting to the speed of the SEC.

The PiBB Ice Player of the Week:

Screen_shot_2014-08-29_at_9.05.14_am_medium_medium

Offense? Nah. We're really into this piece of string now.

The Stormies make a comeback that no one wanted, and Piece of String earns his third PIPotW honor of the season. (I look forward to PieceofStringFan's angered response in the comments).