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Vanderbilt 35, Middle Tennessee 7: It’s hard to imagine a better start to the season

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Vanderbilt harassed Brent Stockstill, again. And the offense was very vanilla, but did its job.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Five Factors

Five Factors Box Score Vanderbilt MTSU
Five Factors Box Score Vanderbilt MTSU
Plays 54 72
Total Yards 347 270
Yards Per Play 6.4 3.8
Rushing Attempts 36 28
Rushing Yards 190 153
Rushing YPP 5.3 5.5
Passing Attempts 18 44
Passing Yards 157 117
Passing YPP 8.7 2.7
Rushing Success Rate 50.00% 42.90%
Passing Success Rate 50.00% 22.70%
Success Rate 50.00% 30.60%
Avg. Field Position 26 24.7
PP40 7 1.75
Turnovers 0 2

If you’re new to this feature, here’s an explainer on the Five Factors. And for reference, here’s the Statistical from last year’s game against MTSU.

Last year, Vanderbilt’s defense made life miserable for MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill. That was the case again this year; the MTSU signal-caller averaged a measly 2.7 yards per play on passing attempts (that includes sacks) and had a pitiful 22.7% success rate. Yes, the MTSU running game — on paper — looks like it had a decent night, but consider that the Blue Raiders’ final eight rushing attempts resulted in 70 yards and a 62.5% success rate. Prior to that, MTSU had a meager 35 percent success rate and averaged 4.2 yards per rush attempt.

In short, Vanderbilt’s defense made life pretty miserable for MTSU. And while the offense seemed to struggle to get things going early on in the game, it’s hard to argue with a 50 percent success rate (both running and passing the ball!) and 6.4 yards per play. Oh yeah, and Vanderbilt had four drives that got inside the MTSU 40, and capped all four drives with touchdowns. MTSU also had four drives inside the Vanderbilt 40, but three of those ended with a punt (from the Vanderbilt 41 after a sack), a missed 47-yard field goal attempt, and an interception.

We’ve never been huge fans of the “bend-don’t-break” defensive approach, but there really just isn’t a whole lot to argue with in Vanderbilt’s first performance of the season. Now let’s see if this holds up against teams that are better than MTSU, of which there are (probably) eight on the schedule.

Passing

Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Kyle Shurmur 10 17 58.80% 170 2 0 1 -13 157 50.00% 8.7

Receiving

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Kalija Lipscomb 7 4 60 1 57.10% 8.6 15 42.90%
Jared Pinkney 5 3 32 0 60.00% 6.4 10.7 60.00%
Donaven Tennyson 1 1 49 0 100.00% 49 49 100.00%
Chris Pierce 1 1 17 1 100.00% 17 17 100.00%
C.J. Bolar 1 0 0 0 0.00% 0 N/A 0.00%
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 1 1 12 0 100.00% 12 12 100.00%

At least through one game, the passing game was pretty heavily reliant on its two most experienced weapons: junior WR Kalija Lipscomb and redshirt junior TE Jared Pinkney. As usual, good things happen when Donaven Tennyson gets his hands on the ball, but he only got one touch on Saturday night. We’d expect C.J. Bolar and Cam Johnson to get in the action more as the season wears on. And, sophomore Chris Pierce had his first career reception — and it went for a touchdown.

Rushing

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Jamauri Wakefield 10 56 5.6 1 60.00%
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 9 37 4.1 0 33.30%
Khari Blasingame 8 52 6.5 1 50.00%
Kyle Shurmur 3 15 5 0 33.30%
Kalija Lipscomb 2 19 9.5 0 100.00%
Josh Crawford 2 5 2.5 0 50.00%
Cam Johnson 1 6 6 0 100.00%

I admit to being skeptical of the running back-by-committee approach, but against MTSU, this worked swimmingly — and interestingly, Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the least effective of the three co-starters. Wide receivers Kalija Lipscomb and Cam Johnson combined for 25 yards on three rushing attempts, which is a nice wrinkle to have in the running game.

It’s worth noting, too, that Jamauri Wakefield had a couple of big kickoff returns. Overall, special teams weren’t a problem at all: Ryley Guay was perfect on extra points and had all six kickoffs go for touchbacks, and Parker Thome pinned MTSU deep a couple of times.

Notes

  • By my count, Vanderbilt had seven first-time starters in this game. On offense, WR Chris Pierce and OL Cole Clemens got their first career starts. On defense, DL Dayo Odeyingbo, LB Colin Anderson, and DB’s Tae Daley and Donovan Sheffield started for the first time. CB Alim Muhammad got his first start at Vanderbilt, though of course he was a starter at Holy Cross.
  • The participation report shows that seven true freshmen played: Ja’Veon Marlow, Max Worship, Alston Orji, Cam Johnson, C.J. Bolar, Ben Bresnahan, and Amir Abdur-Rahman. That three of those play receiver should tell you how thin that position was entering fall camp; six of those seven are guys that Vanderbilt probably won’t even try to redshirt. The one exception is Marlow, who’s at a deep position (RB) where there won’t be a ton of playing time to go around.
  • Vanderbilt got to Brent Stockstill six times, with Kenny Hebert getting two of those; Colin Anderson, Louis Vecchio, Josh Smith, and Jordan Griffin also got sacks. Jordan Griffin led the team with eight total tackles.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt will be back at home again at 11 AM Saturday as they host the Nevada Wolf Pack, in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The game will be televised on the SEC Network; as of my last check, Vanderbilt is a 10-point favorite in this game.