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Purdue 42, Vanderbilt 24: Problems, but fixable ones

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Whether the problems will, in fact, get fixed is another matter entirely.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Five Factors Box Score

Five Factors Vanderbilt Purdue
Five Factors Vanderbilt Purdue
Plays 74 70
Total Yards 491 540
Yards Per Play 6.6 7.7
Rushing Attempts 24 18
Rushing Yards 84 31
Rushing YPP 3.5 1.7
Passing Attempts 50 52
Passing Yards 407 509
Passing YPP 8.1 9.8
Rushing Success 41.70% 33.30%
Passing Success 44.00% 50.00%
Success Rate 43.20% 45.70%
Avg. Field Position 29.2 25.9
PP40 3.43 5.25
Turnovers 1 1

The first story of the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 42-24 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers was penalties. Specifically: offensive penalties that mostly resulted from sloppiness and that killed drives (see, for instance, Vanderbilt’s rather awful 3.43 points per trip inside the 40) and defensive penalties that mostly came on third down and extended Purdue drives.

The second story of the game: big plays. Purdue hit them. The Boilermakers had 11 plays that went for 20 yards or more, and for better or worse, those made a huge difference in the game. On those 11 plays, Purdue netted 342 yards of offense (and also note that all of those came through the air.) On the other 59 plays that Purdue ran, the Boilermakers generated 198 yards of total offense — a 3.4 yards per play average. They also generated a 35.6 percent success rate.

Now, obviously, you can’t just take away Purdue’s big plays. But here’s where I am going with this. Back in 2017, Bill C. (back when he was at Football Study Hall and not ESPN) showed that big plays are more or less random, and while there’s some skill involved, getting burned by big plays is not necessarily something that’s going to keep happening, over and over again. Success rate, on the other hand, is predictive, and on that front Vanderbilt actually did all right against Purdue. Yes, when Purdue was successful, they were successful... but it wasn’t as if the Boilermakers were just doing whatever they wanted on the offensive side of the ball.

Look — I understand the calls for the coach’s head after that one, particularly since all the penalties (and in particular the procedural ones) are the kind of mistakes that are rather easy to tie back to coaching. So, too, is the gameplan (did anyone notice how well the offense did once the coaching staff opened up the playbook?) I’m personally of the opinion that whatever your opinion on Mason’s job status at the end of 2018 was, nothing that’s happened in the first two games of 2019 should have changed said opinion. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it’s worth pointing out that Vanderbilt has opened the season by playing probably two of the four most difficult games on the schedule (at least, now that we have the knowledge that Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Tennessee are all varying degrees of ass), and the third will come in two weeks when LSU comes to town.

The overall point of this is that the problems that surfaced on Saturday are mostly fixable problems. (The problems from the Georgia game were mostly related to Georgia being really good at football.) “Don’t commit dumb penalties” is much more likely to get fixed than “don’t get pushed around by an average offensive line.” That the problems are fixable, of course, makes it a much more flagrant coaching crime if the problems aren’t fixed. But there are still ten more games to play, and the season certainly isn’t lost after an 0-2 start.

Passing stats

Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Success Rate YPP
Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Success Rate YPP
Riley Neal 24 34 70.60% 378 2 1 3 13 365 18 48.60% 9.9
Deuce Wallace 7 13 53.80% 42 0 0 0 0 42 4 30.80% 3.2

Based on what we saw on Saturday, whatever quarterback controversy existed after the Georgia game should be over. Riley Neal is pretty obviously the best quarterback on Vanderbilt’s roster, at least to my untrained eye. We got to see what Neal can do when the center is snapping the ball properly and the defensive line isn’t in the backfield on every other play, and the result was that passing line. (The latter may be a problem again against LSU.)

Underrated: at some point in the first half, the coaching staff decided to insert 6’7”, 326-pound redshirt sophomore Jonathan Stewart at left tackle. I don’t know if that made a difference, but it may not have been a coincidence that Vanderbilt’s pass protection seemed to be better in this game (again, not playing Georgia probably helped a ton.)

Rushing stats

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Success Rate
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 17 56 3.3 1 7 41.20%
Keyon Brooks 3 7 2.3 0 1 33.30%
Riley Neal 2 4 2 0 1 50.00%
Kalija Lipscomb 1 16 16 0 1 100.00%
Deuce Wallace 1 1 1 0 0 0.00%

Another thing that seems like it’s going to get “fixed”: so far this season, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has just five runs for 10 or more yards, and only one of 20 or more — a 23-yard run on Saturday. This is probably not going to continue.

Now, back to the passing numbers: there’s certainly an argument to be made that Riley Neal’s good numbers were a direct result of Purdue selling out in an effort to bottle up Vaughn (which they were.) On the other hand, either defenses are going to continue to sell out to stop Vaughn or Vaughn will start getting more room to run once opposing defenses respect Riley Neal’s ability to beat them deep.

Receiving stats

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Success Rate
Kalija Lipscomb 11 8 98 0 72.70% 8.9 12.3 8 72.70%
Justice Shelton-Mosley 4 4 32 0 100.00% 8 8 2 50.00%
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 4 4 22 0 100.00% 5.5 5.5 1 25.00%
Jared Pinkney 4 3 60 0 75.00% 15 20 2 50.00%
C.J. Bolar 4 2 16 0 50.00% 4 8 0 0.00%
Chris Pierce 3 3 133 1 100.00% 44.3 44.3 3 100.00%
Cam Johnson 3 3 31 1 100.00% 10.3 10.3 3 100.00%
James Bostic 3 2 13 0 66.70% 4.3 6.5 1 33.30%
Jackson Winrow 2 1 4 0 50.00% 2 4 1 50.00%
Keyon Brooks 1 1 10 0 100.00% 10 10 1 100.00%

A much more active game for Kalija Lipscomb, who was targeted 11 times and made eight catches for 98 yards. Jared Pinkney did his thing, and a shout to Chris Pierce, who caught three balls but gained 131 yards on them. The receiving corps looks as deep as we thought it did, and that’s with Amir Abdur-Rahman missing the game due to an injury.

Notes

  • Some changes in the starting lineup, specifically at inside linebacker, where Caleb Peart replaced the injured Feleti Afemui and Dimitri Moore subbed in for Brayden DeVault-Smith. (Vanderbilt’s first play of the game was in the nickel, so Allan George “replaced” Andre Mintze in the starting lineup.)
  • Per the participation chart, three true freshmen played on Saturday: Daevion Davis, Jaylen Mahoney, and Keyon Brooks. Davis and Mahoney both played against Georgia and at this point, I’d think it’s unlikely that either of them are going to redshirt. Brooks got a couple of carries after Ke’Shawn Vaughn briefly got shaken up and came in again on the final drive of the game; he still has three more games to play if the staff wants to preserve his redshirt.
  • The defense, well, I don’t know what to say about that. For the second game in a row, Dashaun Jerkins led the team in tackles; Allan George and Lashawn Paulino-Bell were credited with two pass breakups apiece. On the other hand, the defense got zero sacks and a grand total of one QB hurry. Purdue couldn’t run the ball at all, but then they weren’t really trying to run the ball.
  • By the way, for the morbidly curious, here’s the full rundown of Vanderbilt’s penalties yesterday: a 10-yard holding call on Jared Pinkney; an offsides call on Lashawn Paulino-Bell that wiped out a sack on 3rd-and-15; a defensive holding call on Dimitri Moore on the next play (which gave Purdue a first down); a roughing the passer call on Rutger Reitmaier on 3rd and 12 (this wiped off an interception, though a declined offsides call — also on Reitmaier, I believe — would have done that anyway); a holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct on Saige Young (which wiped off a 16-yard run by Vaughn on 2nd and 8); a false start on Jonathan Stewart (which... well, that came when it was already 3rd and 22 thanks to the previous two penalties); a false start on Saige Young on 4th and 1 (are you kidding me); another offsides on Rutger Reitmaier (on 3rd and 8, because of course); an 11-yard intentional grounding penalty on Riley Neal (Derek Mason caught the pass); an offsides penalty on Kenny Hebert (this one also wiped off an interception!); and a targeting call on Randall Haynie.
  • Actually, now that I look at it, the penalties on the offensive line just seemed bad because they came in quick succession, but that was actually the extent of them. As far as the defensive penalties go: yes, that needs to be cleaned up, but basically all of them resulted from the defense trying to play aggressively on third down — which, frankly, is something you’d like them to do. Purdue QB Elijah Sindelar was just really good at catching defenders offsides and getting a free play out of it.
  • There were six players who played this week after not playing against Georgia: the aforementioned Keyon Brooks and Jonathan Stewart, as well as Alston Orji, Cody Markel, Josiah Sa’o, and Stone Edwards. Five players who played against Georgia didn’t play on Saturday: Feleti Afemui, Jamauri Wakefield, and Amir Abdur-Rahman were all hurt; the other two were Gil Barksdale and Rowan Godwin.
  • Still not seen: Ja’Veon Marlow, Colin Anderson, Eddie Zinn-Turner, and Malik Langham. No, we haven’t heard anything else about Langham’s status.

What’s Next

A bye week, followed by a visit from LSU on September 21. No time or TV coverage announced yet.