The real-life Commodores did go to Arkansas and won 45-31. That gave Derek Mason’s team their fourth win of the season and first in the conference. They only had 3 games after it to pick up the 2 wins for bowl eligibility and would do so, even after losing to Missouri the next week. Due to video game limitations, this game instead takes place in Week 2 and follows a 35-12 in Oxford to start the season. Could Vanderbilt start 2-0, both overall and in SEC play?
The game was played in the same color schemes as reality with the Commodores in black helmets, white jerseys, and gold pants. The Razorbacks wore red helmets and jerseys with white pants. Vanderbilt lost the toss, and Arkansas deferred.
Unfortunately, nothing would come of that draw with a WR screen to Lipscomb blown up for a loss of 5 before Vaughn got 3 back then Shurmur misfired. It was an inauspicious start for the offense, but the defense forced their own three and out with Devwah Whaley getting 6 before the pressure you all wanted more of rushed 2nd and 3rd down throws to be incomplete. The Commodores kept the offensive stuttering going with an underneath completion to Lipscomb for 4, a coverage sack, and checkdown to Vaughn that was short of a first down, even with a gain of 8. Arkansas’s zone coverages made using Vaughn an important part of the passing game.
The Hogs would get the first points of the game on the next drive. Whaley was again given the ball to start the drive and powered for 7. A short throw to the left from Ty Storey to La’Michael Pettway turned into a 25-yard gain after Pettway rag dolled both Randall Haynie and Tae Daley. Jared Cornelius would then stiff arm Donovan Sheffield and scamper for 32 yards and 6 points. The PAT was made to give the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead with 3:44 left in Q1.
Vanderbilt’s next drive showed some promise. Ke’Shawn goes for 8 on an inside zone. Then takes a shotgun counter for 8 more after shaking a tackle in the backfield. Chris Pierce catches a dart from Shurmur on a curl to gain 11. A deep seam pass to Pinkney is almost picked off. On 2nd down, a WR screen is audibled down to a power run for Vaughn to get 9. A jailbreak blitz sacks Shurmur to force 4th and 4 at the Razorback 43. This early, Vanderbilt reluctantly punts and pins Arkansas at their 16.
The defense rewards the faith. Joejuan Williams battles the WR on a screen, and the ball hits the turf. Whaley responds by breaking one tackle and running for 12. TE Cheyenne O’Grady sits down on a curl for 5. Whaley is tackled behind the line to get those 5 back. The 3rd down screen to Whaley gets 8 and falls less than a yard short of the sticks.
Shurmur leads the offense out at their own 24 with 25 seconds left in the 1st. Vaugh goes for 5 then ends the first by catching angle route and getting 7 yards for a fresh set of downs. Shurmur is hit as he throws to force an incompletion. He responds by hitting Pierce on a curl for 12 yards. Vaughn loses 1 on a stretch. The drive dies when Pierce fumbles after catching a screen.
Arkansas dives on it at the Vanderbilt 46. The home team capitalizes after dropping a screen and losing two when Storey keeps a read option. Elijah Hamilton is beat on consecutive plays for 31 and 18 to put 6 more points on the board for Arkansas. The Chad Morris offense with 5 WRs and tempo were eating up attempts to bring pressure and taking advantage of any mistake in the secondary.
Needing to respond, Shurmur gets sacked due to a slow throw. Then he finds Lipscomb for 12. Vaughn hauls in a pass to the flat and sprints for 15. The attack continues as Bolar then gets 21 on a post between safeties. It slows when Vaughn gets 2 and Bolar can only get 5. Vaughn does run for 8 on a shotgun counter. He is given a breather, and Blasingame gets a carry for 1. Pinkney gets nothing in the flat as he is tackled immediately. Shurmur goes back to his TE up the seam, but it is knocked away. The Commodores get their first points as Guay baaarely squeaks the 40-yard FG attempt inside the upright to make it 14-3 with 2:15 left in the first half.
Arkansas flounders with Whaley getting 5 on a counter, but that would be it for their drive. Williams forces an incomplete using the sideline then Sheffield forces a drop. A 17-yard return from Trey Ellis gives the Commodores the ball 4 yards short of midfield with 1:35 to go in the half and all 3 timeouts. Another pass to Pinkney is barely broken up. Shurmur persists and finally hits the TE for 23 up the seam. Bolar gets 24 more by splitting the zone. The clock is at 1:17, and the Commodores are first and goal from the 7. Vaughn runs for 2 then 1 before dropping a pass. Vandy goes for it from the 4 with 21 ticks left in the half. Lipscomb battles then gets free on a slant and hangs on for the TD. Guay’s PAT makes it 14-10 with 18 seconds left in the first half. Arkansas hands it off then heads to the locker room to ponder their dwindling lead.
They do nothing to help themselves after starting the second half with the ball. Whaley gets 9 on a counter. Then adds another half yard. Commodore pressure blows up a speed option as Dayo slams Storey down before he can even look to pitch. That stop gave Vanderbilt the ball back at their own 39. Vaughn gets one on an inside zone. Pierce beats press man with no safety help and takes a go route 60 yards to the house! Vanderbilt takes their first lead, 17-13, with 5:24 left in Q3.
The Commodore defense continues to come up big. Williams again forces his man out of real estate as Storey feels both Wright and Smith coming off the edges. Deon Stewart gets 3 yards on an out. O’Grady bounces off a tackler in the flat but stumbles out for no gain.
Vanderbilt’s momentum continues into the next drive. Vaughn starts with a 12-yard catch-and-run as the Razorbacks back off to cover Pierce. The ball goes back to Vaughn for 9 on a counter. For the third play in a row, Ke’Shawn gets the ball with a catch for 3 and a first at the Arkansas 41. Pinkney sits down between zones for 4. Blasingame makes a catch in the flat but cannot get his balance and loses 4. Arkansas brings pressure and forces an incomplete and 4th and 9. Parker Thome’s punt is neeearly perfect but goes out of bounds one yard deep into the endzone for a touchback.
Ty Storey starts the drive by keeping the ball for 12 yards. Whaley gets 6 but gives half of that back when tackled for a loss of 3. Stewart wriggles free for 13 yards through the air. Storey keeps again but only gains 1. Pettway then gets 10. Haynie nearly picks off a screen then makes the tackle for a loss of 2. Pettway gets a first on a slant for 13. Storey is forced to throw the ball away with no options open. Whaley grits out 3 yards. Daley then drops a pick as the lurking safety breaks on a corner route. Facing 4th and 7 from the 26, Limpert misses the 43-yard FG! The score is still 17-14 Vanderbilt with 0:56 left in the 3rd.
Ke’Shawn opens the drive with a catch for 2. Pinkney gets open on a corner route off play action for 18. Vaughn then carries for 6 before adding 2 more as the quarter ends. A good 10-yard run gets a new set of downs to the Arkansas 35. A little trickery gets Lipscomb 8 yards on a jet sweep. Kalija then loses a battle for a jump ball in the end zone, but the DB cannot hold on for the interception. Vaughn gets the first on a carry to the 20. Bolar gets 6 when he finds a hole in the zone. Shurmur misses Lipscomb on a stop route. A slant to Bolar is baaarely tipped away to prevent a likely TD. Guay converts the FG to make it 20-14 with 5:28 left in the 4th.
Whaley starts the next Razorback drive powerfully by trucking Daley on his way to a gain of 12. He gets 6 more on the next play and a single yard on the following run. An option pass then gets stopped for only 2 with a great one-on-one tackle in space by Randall Haynie. Arkansas plays it safe on 4th and 2 at their own 42. Coach Anchor O’Gold does not want to be burned by another fake and uses Punt Safe, which proves unneeded as the ball is kicked away and out of bounds to the Vanderbilt 17.
Vanderbilt gets the ball back for a critical drive with 4:13 left in the game. A screen to Vaughn gets 15 yards. Pierce is somehow tackled for a loss of 7 on a screen. A pass play then takes foooreeever to develop as the Razorbacks drop into coverage with Shurmur rolling right until Bolar gets open enough coming across the field to catch-and-run for 21. Vaughn tacks on 5 more on the ground followed by 4 and a half. Blasingame earns 4 off the edge for a new set of downs. Vaughn sprints for 9 to run the clock to 2:05 and force the first Arkansas first timeout. Coming out of the timeout, SHURMUR KEEPS ON A READ OPTION AND AMBLES FOR 5 AND A FIRST DOWN! His speed cannot save him from a sack when a PA pass takes too long to open up. The final Arkansas timeout stops the clock at 1:58 with Vanderbilt facing 2nd and 17 from the 31 while up 6 points. Vaughn carries for 5. A screen to Lipscomb is identified early and ends in a loss of 5 but at least keeps the clock moving. Guay comes up massive by making the 48-yard FG to make it 23-14 with 32 seconds left! The 9-point lead seems very safe.
Arkansas starts at their own 26 with 28 seconds remaining. Storey’s first pass attempt is too deep and misses everyone. Pettway then finally breaks free as Storey scrambles around with no pressure and makes a catch for 30. A spike halts the clock with 12 seconds left. For the second week in a row, an INT ices the game when Wiley picks the pass off with 7 seconds left. Shurmur kneels to end it.
A look at the team stats says Vanderbilt had 18 first downs, 79 rushing yards on 28 carries, and 279 yards passing on 28 completions from 39 passing attempts while being 5/14 on the 3rd down and 1/1 on 4th. Arkansas had 9 first downs, 74 yards rushing on 18 attempts, 188 yards passing on 14/25 through the air while going 2/9 on 3rd down. Neither team had a penalty and Vanderbilt won TOP 19:02 to 8:58, mostly due to Arkansas going hurry up.
Individually, the rushing attack was led by Vaughn with 19 carries for 94. Shurmur’s 4 sacks, 1 kneeldown, and 1 QB keeper totaled to Shurms losing 28 yards. Blasingame’s limited usage resulted in 5 yards from 2 rushes. Lipscomb had the lone jet sweep for 8 yards. Vaughn also had the most receptions with 7 passes caught for 65 yards. Lipscomb had 6 receptions but only netted 17 yards due to losses on imploded screens. Bolar and Pierce both had 5 catches for 77 and 78 yards, respectively. Pinkney hauled in 4 passes for 46 yards. Blasingame also had a single catch that lost 4 yards. Unlike last week, the defense recorded no sacks. Wiley with the lone INT.
You all wanted more pressure, but it was difficult to find times to bring pressure with Arkansas spreading out so much. Attempts to blitz opened space downfield or running lanes for Whaley, depending on the defensive alignment used. However, the offensive suggestion worked in a weird way. A lot of the throws ended up being shorter due to Arkansas’s scheme being predicated on zone blitzing. Shurmur threw 11 more passes but still improved his completion percentage over 18 points from 53.6% to 71.8%. Moving away from toss plays with Vaughn (because the roster set vastly underestimates his speed) also netted him an improvement of 1.4 yards per carry up to 4.94. That buoyed the entire offense’s production from 1.88 yards per carry to 3.5 yards per carry.
With a 2-0 start, both on the road against SEC opponents, under his belt, Coach O’Gold now heads to 0-1 South Carolina. The Game Penises did not play in Week 1 then lost 24-10 at #9 Georgia in Week 2. They managed only 115 yards passing but did run for 207, which is impressive. Defensively, they were gashed for 228 yards on the ground but allowed only 110 through the air. The limited passing offense and weak run defense are probably mostly factors of their opponent but will likely be a big part of coach’s film study for the week. The rushing attack will also probably keep him up a few nights in hopes of finding a solution that the Bulldogs could not find.
The Chicken Curse looms. South Carolina has the longest winning streak against Vanderbilt of any SEC East team. The streak was 9 going into 2018. The next longest was Florida at 4. It really does feel like something supernatural is causing the losing streak because Vanderbilt has had plenty of good chances to win those games, but they have not found ways to win any of those games while finding ways against much better teams.
I think I know the answer to this, but should Ke’Shawn keep being used so much? He does have some injury concerns. Khari Blasingame could probably use a few touches that could help Ke’Shawn be more rested. Vaughn touched the ball on 40% of offensive snaps.
Does nearly 40 passes per game make sense for Shurmur? Too many? Not enough? Run the ball more this week just because SC appears week against the run?
Should Ke’Shawn usage be toned down a little?
This poll is closed
NO! Give Ke’Shawn the damn ball!
Yes. Get him down around 30%
Yes. Get him down around 20%
About how many passes per game should Shurmur have?
This poll is closed
These polls will close at midnight Saturday night. And. Bring. Suggestions. You guys have been oddly quiet on that front. I expect some truly weird stuff to try.