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Let’s Try That Again: Week 3 @ South Carolina

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Vanderbilt goes to one of its house of horrors to the soundtrack of Sandstorm.

Vanderbilt v South Carolina
Ke’Shawn can do more than just take a handoff!
Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

The virtual Commodores led by Head Coach Anchor O’Gold come off wins in Oxford and Fayetteville and head to the only Columbia in the SEC. This game is the first chance for Coach O’Gold to one-up Head Coach Derek Mason by winning a game the real-life Commodores lost at home 37-14 in a game that was close then got out of hand late. This matchup is another location-flipped game, so the jerseys go from gold helmets with black jerseys and pants for the Commodores and all-whites for the Game Penises to Gold-White-Black and White-Garnet-White, respectively. The coin toss also switches who receives the ball first.

Vanderbilt gets the ball first, and Shurmur uses Vaughn on a wheel route to pick up 33 yards! The drive then stalls when a long developing PA off a draw ends in a sack by scary man Javon Kinlaw is followed by a throwaway due to coverage and a PBU on a deep pass to Pinkney. Thome knocks one dead that rolls out of bounds at the 3 to give South Carolina awful initial field position.

Rico Dowdle goes off-tackle for 12 away from pressure up the middle. The HB finds 5 more on the next play. Jake Bentley drops back for the first time and finds TE KC Crosby on a 7-yard reception. Another handoff to Dowdle earns 6 more. Then another 5 yards found after being hit twice in the backfield. Josh Smith ends the drive by jumping a curl route and running all the way down to the 1-yard line, finished by dragging Jake Bentley for the last 6. Ke’Shawn punches into the end zone on the first play from a shotgun handoff. The Commodores have a 7-0 lead with 4:56 left in the first quarter.

To start the next Gamecock drive, Bryan Edwards drops a pass after Bentley had to scramble with Donovan Sheffield draped over him. On 2nd down, Bentley misfires into a crowd near the sideline. Shi Smith then gets open for 17. Facing a new set of downs, Elijah Hamilton comes on a corner blitz from the slot and forces an incomplete. On third down, Daley comes up from the safety position on a Bentley keeper and stymies it for 4th and 1 at Vandy 44. The punt finds the end zone.

Vaughn goes up the middle for 6 against a 3-3-5 look then is stuffed on a draw to lose 2. No one can get open on 3rd down, and the pass is incomplete. South Carolina gets the ball back at their own 44. Smith immediately wins on a slant route and gets 16 before Edwards drops a diving attempt. Bentley keeps the ball up the middle for 12. Dowdle loses 2 on the next play. Edwards then beats Sheffield and gets to the 1. Bentley keeps another read option, bounces off Charles Wright, and is obliterated by Dayo Odeyingbo back at the 5. Jordan Griffin spies the QB and has an underneath route thrown right to him at the goal line. He runs it out to the 27 after not being sure if he was in the end zone when he caught it or not.

PA gets Jaire George open in the flat for 8. Vaughn gets 1 on an inside zone, 4 on power, and 5 on a dive before losing 1 yard on a toss to end the first quarter. Pinkney only gets 3 to open the quarter, so Vanderbilt faced 4th and 3 at their own 47. Coach O’Gold elects to punt, and forces SC to start from their own 17.

A HB Screen to Dowdle loses 3. Nobody can get open for Bentley on a play that ends in a throwaway. Wright then smashes Bentley all the way back at the South Carolina 6-yard line on a 6-man pressure. The poor punting position and an attempted Commodore block gives Trey Ellis room for a 7-yard return to the SC 37. Unfortunately, a deep sack on an PA shot play handicaps the drive on 1st down. The follow-up screen to Vaughn is sniffed out to lose 3 more. What a disaster. Shurmur makes a poor decision and forces a throw. It is picked off and returned to the Vanderbilt 30 before Vaughn tracks down the defender.

Thankfully, Wright blows up a draw for a loss of 2. On 2nd and long, more pressure ends with Drew Birchmeier eventually getting the sack as Bentley scrambles. Facing 3rd and 21, Bryan Edwards drops ANOTHER pass. This one should have been caught but still would have been well short with plenty of tacklers around him. The ensuing punt lands in the end zone.

This Commodore drive starts with 3:29 left in half. Shurmur makes a GREAT throw just before getting crushed to hit Pierce for 16. Vaughn then gets 13 on an inside zone before a pitch gets nothing. Lipscomb gets jammed on a slant as pressure forces a quick throw that hits the turf. Shurmur smartly and safely misses low and away on a curl to Pierce. Thome pins SC at their own 14 with the punt.

Dayo Odeyingbo wins at the point of attack and gets Dowdle for no gain. Brother Dare does it one better by coming from the backside and getting a loss of 1. Jake Bentley keeps for 4, and Vandy takes a timeout with 1:14 left in the half. Ellis finds a crease for a 20-yard return and gives Shurmur the ball at the SC 40 with 1:03 and two timeouts. The redshirt senior QB drops in a dime on a corner route to Lipscomb who runs up the sideline, holding a defender off with a stiff arm, and gets 32. Pinkney catches a dart over the middle for the 9-yard TD! Vanderbilt leads 14-0 with 46 seconds on the clock.

Expecting SC to run the clock out, pressure comes, but Bentley throws it away. On the next play, Shi Smith cannot make the toe-tapper catch on the sideline. Dowdle runs for 12, and SC calls timeout with 34 seconds left and the ball at their own 37. Edwards gets over his drops to get 22 yards. Shi Smith gets 19 more by catching one on Randall Haynie’s head! Bentley goes back to Smith, but Haynie knocks the ball free for a fumble that sadly rolls out of bounds at the Vandy 18 with 15 seconds left. The quick-strike drive comes up empty when Elijah Hamilton has one thrown right to him sitting back in zone against 4-wide. With the ball back, Vaughn gets 1 yard as the half is allowed to expire.

To start the second half, Sheffield keeps Deebo Samuel wide, and the throw goes out of bounds. Bentley keeps for 13 when Birchmeier had a clean shot at the mesh but broke down for no reason. A bubble screen to Ortre Smith gets only 2. Bryan Edwards then gets deep on Joejuan Williams before getting tracked down at the Vanderbilt 6. Dowdle is tackled 1 yard behind the LOS by Jordan Griffin then gets that plus another yard back. Bentley must throw the next pass through the back of the end zone with no open options due to limited routes. The very short FG is made to make the score 14-3 Vandy with 5:32 left in the 3rd.

In a groan-inducing start to the drive, Donaven Tennyson and Jared Pinkney collide, causing the pass to fall incomplete. Pinkney responds by getting free up the seam for 29. Vaughn find the edge and 12 yards on the handoff. Jet sweep motion from Lipscomb gives Vaughn a crease for 12 more against the grain. Pinkney makes a second catch of the drives for 4 underneath. Shurmur hits Lipscomb for 7 on a slant. He goes back to Pinkney for 5 in the flat. Vaughn only gets 1 on the handoff. 3rd down from the 2. Blasingame is brought into the game and powers into the end zone to put his team up 21-3 with 3:22 left in the 3rd.

Needing some points, the Gamecock offense comes back onto the field. Dowdle gets 17 up the middle after juking Jordan Griffin. They go back to him but only for 1 yard. Bentley’s 2nd down pass goes off the hands of a receiver short along the sideline. Shi Smith catches for 12 yards and a first down. Bentley tucks the ball and gets 16. Joejuan Williams makes a great play to knock one away from Edwards. Another Cock drop brings up 3rd and 10. Dowdle loses 2 on a screen. Down 18, South Carolina faces 4th down at the Vanderbilt 35. The long FG is good! The 3 points cuts Vanderbilt’s lead to 21-6 with 2:05 left in the 3rd.

Vaughn battles for 4 on a counter to start the drive. On 2nd down, SC presses Chris Pierce with a single high safety, and Shurmur hot routes him to a go route. Pierce beats the man at the line and catches a soft lob then runs for 35 yards down to SC’s 34. Sam Dobbs shows up for 3 in the flat. Pressure on 2nd down forces a throwaway. Shurmur’s next pass gets tipped, but Bolar catches it and gains 3. He is still 3 yards short of the line to gain. Guay is called upon and drills the 45-yard FG. The score is 24-6 Vandy with 21 seconds left in the 3rd.

Again facing a need for points, Bentley starts by scrambling against a 4-man rush and being sacked just behind the LOS by Dayo. A HB screen gets 17, and the quarter expires. Another screen is identified, and Bentley tosses the ball over heads and out of bounds. A route combo picks Haynie and gets Shi Smith open for 18. Bentley goes back to Smith for another 5. Dowdle gets 8 on yet another screen. Smith then bobbles and gets the ball dislodged by Haynie. The Same thing happens on the next play! The Gamecock offense is clearly trying to pick on Haynie and having some success, but he has won some, too. Sure enough, the next play goes back to Smith against Hayne for a first down. Haynie then knocks the next pass down in coverage on a TE. Bentley keeps and gets 12 and the TD. The Gamecocks cut the lead to 12, and they are going for 2! Bentley tries to throw but must scramble and does not make it into the end zone. The score remains 24-12 with 6:09 remaining.

Pierce wins on a screen then takes off for 29 to make another early drive contribution. Vaughn follows with 6 on a screen of his own before adding 9 on a weak side counter. The shifty HB gets 3 more before losing a yard when a LB slips a gap. Pierce runs a bad route, coming out the break slowly, and gets it jumped, but the DB drops the ball. It is 4th and 8 at the South Carolina 34, and Coach O’Gold is going for it? It really was the default option. Vaughn slips out on another wheel for 22 big yards! Vaughn takes a stretch for 6 yards. Blasingame’s power is again called on as he takes a dive 6 yards for points! Vanderbilt has a fairly safe 31-12 lead now with only 3:47 left.

The last gasp Game Penis drive starts with a throwaway. Bentley then completes passes to Edwards for 16 and Deebo for 10 on consecutive plays. The ensuing pass attempt is knocked away. Shi Smith makes diving catch for just 3. Samuel beats Williams again and gets 20 before a safety gets there. Donovan Sheffield leaps and knocks a pass away by getting both hands on it. South Carolina ekes out 2 yards on screen to Dowdle then goes back to him on a check down for 6 yards. It is now 4th and 2 with 2:23 left, and South Carolina comes out with 4 TEs. Dowdle takes a toss left all the way to the one after literally bouncing off Wiley. They come back with the same play to the right, but Daley stuffs it just before Dowdle gets the ball to the plane of the end zone. A dive scores on next play though. Down 13 with 1:54 remaining, SC kicks the PAT and leave themselves a 31-19 deficit.

CJ Bolar snags the onside kick, and it should be over. Should be. Vaughn bounces a dive for 4 and forces a timeout with 1:49 left. Stretch runs for 2 and an inside zone for 4 and a first exhausts the Game Penis timeouts with 1:43 left. Ballgame, right? Shurmur hands off to Vaughn for 2 trying to get his totals up. A weakside stretch for 2 more follows. Then a pitch loses yardage and brings up 4th. I ignored the clock and went too fast though. 4th down run gets 1 and a turnover with 1 second left. The game ends when Bentley is sacked by a combo of Elijah Hamilton and Randall Haynie on a dual CB blitz against an attempted Hail Mary.

As a team, Vanderbilt earned 14 first downs, 76 yards rushing on 29 carries, and 240 yards passing through 17 completions on 26 attempt while going 3/11 on 3rd, and 1/2 on 4th. South Carolina tallied 23 first downs, 102 yards rushing on 27 carries, 304 passing on 24/47 passing while going 5/12 on 3rd, and 1/1 on 4th along with 0/1 on 2 PT conversions. The big difference was SC only getting 2 TDs and 1 FG from 5 red zone attempts while the Commodores scored 4 TDs on 4 red zone trips. The 3 INTS thrown by Bentley compared to Shurmur’s 1 was obviously part of their red zone struggles.

Individually, Shurmur was 17/26 through the air for 240 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT while being sacked twice. In terms of rushing, Vaughn led the way with 25 carries for 86 yards and 1 TD. Shurmur’s 2 sacks saddles him with -19 yards. Blasingame showed up and blasted 2 carries for 9 yards and 2 TDs. On the receiving end, Pinkney had the most catches, 5, for 50 yards and a TD. Vaughn, mostly due to the wheel routes, had 4 receptions for 58 yards. Pierce made the most of his touches with the 3 of them earning 79 yards. Lipscomb only had 2 for 39. The trio of Bolar, Dobbs, and George had singular catches for 3, 3, and 8 yards, respectively. Notable on defense were Birchmeier, Wright, Dayo, and Haynie all credited with a single sack while Hamilton, Griffin, and Smith had one INT each.

Now, Vanderbilt heads to South Bend. In reality, Vanderbilt was 2-0 (0-0) with comfortable wins over MTSU and Nevada. The virtual Commodores are also undefeated at 3-0 (3-0) but with 3 conference road wins over Ole Miss, Arkansas, and South Carolina this version seems to be in an even better place. Of course, the game in real life was a series of missed opportunities that resulted in a 5-point loss to the also undefeated #8 Fighting Irish. The virtual Fighting Irish have managed to beat Temple (transitive chance to unwet the hets!) and at #14 Michigan but lost at Purdue by one point in Week 3. Notre Dame is ranked #19. Vanderbilt is not yet receiving votes in the Coaches poll, which is the only given by the game this early for some reason.

Statistically, Notre Dame is similar to the Commodores so far. Both teams are more successful throwing the ball but better at defending the run. Both are also elite in the turnover battle with Vandy ranking #1 and Notre Dame ranking #3 in turnover differential. Overall, Vanderilt’s defense is slightly better while Notre Dame has the offensive edge. The Commodores score 4.7 points more per game. Notre Dame Stadium is also listed as the #2 toughest place to play, but the Commodores have spent a lot of time in tough environments so far.

The big question is how to start the game. The real-life Commodores came out looking to throw the ball quite a bit. Should I use more run or pass early in the game?

Also, Kalija Lipscomb is not seeing nearly the volume or productivity that his skill would make you expect. Should I focus more on getting him the ball, or should I avoid trying to fix what is clearly not broken since the passing attack ranks 20th in the country in yards per game?

Poll

Should the offense come out firing or trying to establish the run?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Unleash Shurmur!
    (12 votes)
  • 45%
    Give Ke’Shawn the damn ball!
    (10 votes)
22 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Does Lipscomb need to get the ball more?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Yes! Find a way to get the ball to your best player!
    (9 votes)
  • 64%
    Nah, let it come naturally.
    (16 votes)
25 votes total Vote Now

The polls will close at 11:59 PM on Wednesday night. AND WHERE ARE THE SUGGESTIONS FOR WEIRD STUFF?!