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Let’s Try That Again: Week 12 vs Kentucky

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Vanderbilt has Ke’Shawn Vaughn this time, so maybe that will help.

Vanderbilt v Kentucky
Kalija Lipscomb made the most of his chances and had some big plays.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In 2018, Vanderbilt visited Lexington, Kentucky and lost 14-7. It was frigidly cold with ridiculous winds. The Commodores were without Ke’Shawn Vaughn due to an injury suffered at the hands of the Florida Gators the week before. I also really started a stir by literally yelling “Let’s go boys!” when Vanderbilt got 20 yards on 2nd and 20 while down 7 with 2:10 left in the game. Apparently, that was grounds to shout a stream of F-bombs and tell me how much Vanderbilt football sucks by some Kentucky fratbro who was told to shut up by surrounding Kentucky fans. My cousin, in full Kentucky gear, was also told that he is used to hanging out with losers since he was wearing a Cincinnati Bengals hoodie. I really have too many of these road trip stories.

In video game land, the game is taking place in Vanderbilt stadium. The headline says, “#16 Vanderbilt should handle #10 Kentucky in their SEC match-up this week,” but Kirk Herbstreit is taking the Cats. The ratings edges in overall (88-86) and defense (90-83) go to the visitors while the home team takes offense (90-88). I simply swapped the white jersey to black for Vanderbilt, so the Commodores are in gold helmets, black jerseys, and black pants. The Wildcats are wearing the inversion of their real uniform which is White-White-Blue.

Kentucky wins the toss and defers. Ke’Shawn Vaughn starts by going straight up the middle for 3 yards. Kyle Shurmur then hits Kalija Lipscomb on a curl for 9 on 2nd down. Vaughn makes a catch in the flat for 12 then loses a yard on a counter handoff. A draw to Ke’Shawn gains 8 against a 2-4-5 defense. Vaughn loses 1 when Bolar misses a block on a play that looked like it could have been a big gain. Parker Thome’s punt bounces and nearly stalls but does roll into the end zone.

CJ Conrad catches for 5 even with Tae Daley making contact. Benny Snell Jr carries outside for 6. Terry Wilson jukes LaDarius Wiley (me) on read option and runs for 57. My baaaad. Wilson then pitches to Snell on speed option for 8. The Wildcats are threatening to score early. Jordan Griffin ends the threat while spying Terry Wilson and snagging the pass thrown right at his face. He is tackled at the 1.

The offensive line pins a pinched UK DL, and Vaughn goes off guard for 8 before getting 3 more up the gut for a first down. CJ Bolar is left completely alone running a go route between a curl by Lipscomb and an under route by Chris Pierce and gains 27 yards easily. I have no idea where the defenders were, but replay makes it seem like the far side safety was in man coverage or a disguised zone went badly wrong. Vaughn totes the rock for 8 on a stretch before losing 2 on HB power. I hit the wrong button on a pass, and Kyle Shurmur lobs a deep pass to Lipscomb who skies and snags the pass for a 45-yard reception to the Kentucky 10! Okay then. A zone blitz leaves Jared Pinkney with tons of space in the flat, but a bizarre catch animation and cut mean he spins in circles until a defender tackles him to gain nothing. Lipscomb gets 9 on a slant and curl. From the 1 on 3rd down, Vaughn takes an inside zone into the end zone behind Jaire George. The first points put Vanderbilt up 7-0 with only 48 seconds left in the first quarter. The 99-yard drive is a huge boost and serves as a possible 14-point swing after the Cats seemed poised for points of their own before Griffin’s interception.

Tavin Richardson only gets a yard on a well-covered WR screen. Terry Wilson then chucks the ball out of bounds immediately when a blitz threatens him on a HB screen. Dayo Odeyingbo proves to be a real threat with a sack on a 6-man pressure when Wilson tries to evade Charles Wright coming free from his LB spot. Trey Ellis gets a 13-yard return to start Vanderbilt at Kentucky’s 46 to start the 2nd quarter.

Shurmur squanders the field position by throwing an interception when a fake handoff makes him late on an out route to Pierce to the far side of the field. Kentucky will start at their own 35.

Terry Wilson hits Dorian Baker underneath for 8. Jordan Griffin nearly has his 2nd interception. This one would probably have been 6 since no one was between him and the end zone after jumping a pass to the flat. Snell gets 35 on a speed option pitch when Dayo took Wilson instead of Snell. Play action gets CJ Conrad free enough to catch a 22-yard TD pass on a corner route. Now, the points-off-turnovers game has swung both ways. 7-7 with 6:22 to play in the first half.

Kentucky only brings the 3 down linemen while dropping into DEEP Cover 4, and Kyle Shurmur slowly rolls to his left before Donaven Tennyson finds a HUGE gap between LBs in zone underneath and the safeties that Lipscomb (go route) and Bolar (post) ran off. Tennyson makes the catch and runs for another 15 yards to gain 53 yards total! The next play loses 2 with Vaughn catching a pass behind the LOS. Pierce sits down on the slant-and-curl route for 7 yards. Same Dobbs makes an appearance and runs the same route to gain 10. The stat tracker flashes to show Shurmur is 10/11 for 170 yards only 9 minutes into the game. Of course, his only pass not completed to a Commodore was caught by a Wildcat. Vaughn carries off guard for 5. Shurmur nearly threw another completion to a player in white trying to get the ball to Lipscomb on a slant. Jordan Jones makes an athletic play to knock away a pass intended for Pinkney. On 4th and 5 from the 14, Ryley Guay comes out and easily makes the 31-yard FG to get Vanderbilt a 10-7 lead with 4:13 to go in the first half.

Wilson finds Conrad on another PA corner concept for 36. Dayo gets free and grabs Wilson on a speed option, but the QB breaks free after being spun away from his pitch option and is tackled for a 3-yard loss by Josh Smith and LaDarius Wiley with Charles Wright joining the pile. No receivers can get space before Cameron Tidd finds Wilson for a sack! The 3rd down HB screen falls incomplete when Snell runs into a Kentucky offensive lineman trying to get out to block for him.

Vanderbilt starts at the 20 after a touchback. Shurmur breaks one sack attempt then gets taken down before he can get a pass away. He should have released the ball before being hauled down. Lipscomb makes a catch in traffic for 9 to get back to 3rd and 10. Pinkney only gets 7 on a short corner and brings up 4th down. Kentucky goes punt safe as Thome’s punt goes 45 yards and is fair caught.

Snell gets nothing when Dayo crashes on a draw play. Kentucky takes their first timeout with 2:01 left in the first half. Conrad makes a short catch then shrugs off Donovan Sheffield before dragging Jordan Griffin for 7 yards to end the 20-yard reception. Tae Daley hits Conrad as he tries to catch the next pass and causes an incompletion. Richardson fumbles after about 12 yards, but it will probably be overturned. As I say so, the booth calls down and does overturn it. The knee was clearly down even live. Terry Wilson scrambles away from Josh Smith and gets 3. The next play ends with a throw away. A 3-man rush somehow gets home just as Wilson tries to release a pass that lands nowhere near anyone. It was Dare Odeyingbo with Dayo not far away. The brothers are being very effective off the edges. Miles Butler misses the 56-yard FG attempt wide right, so the Commodores have the ball back at their own 39 with 1:02 left and all 3 timeouts.

Shurmur barely gets the ball past a diving attempt by the man covering Chris Pierce. Pierce catches the ball and takes off for 40 yards! Vanderbilt hurries to the line. Shurmur is hit as he throws while waiting on CJ Bolar who was about to enter a hole in the zone for a big gain. The next play is incomplete also when the QB misses his intended target while rolling out. The Commodores face 3rd and 10 at the 21 with 39 seconds to go. Pinkney gets 15 on a post. Another dart to Pierce is a 6-yard TD! Vanderbilt extends the lead to 17-7 with 28 seconds left.

Lynn Bowden Jr is hit hard when he runs into a waiting Jordan Griffin and drops the pass. Snell carries for 7, and Kentucky takes their second timeout with 21 seconds to go. I should not say anything, but the combination of play calling and timeout usage in this game can be baffling. Though, anyone who has watched college football knows that is pretty realistic, even if the time scale is understandably shrunk in the video game. Wilson tries to scramble but Dayo stops him then Charles Wright cleans up after a broken tackle. Vanderbilt lets the last 15 seconds run off the clock instead of trying to get the ball back on the punt.

At halftime, Vanderbilt is leading by 10. The defensive calls have been very aggressive with Kentucky relying mostly on the run. The base 4-3 has also been used more in this game than any other since Kentucky typically has a HB and at least 1 TE on the field. However, after starting the game using mostly 4-3 Over to essentially create a 5-man front with one LB joining the defensive line, the defense shifted to the traditional 4-3 Stack to give linebackers more ability to play sideline-to-sideline and make plays, especially against the option.

On offense, the big plays have been excellent. Kentucky is zone blitzing, and when the play goes away from it or attacks the disguise, long gains have happened. Vaughn has only carried the ball 10 times for 32 yards, but he has had some good runs. Shurmur finished the half 15/20 for 247 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception.

Snell gets 9 and a half on a HB screen then loses one on an outside carry. He just barely gets the first down before losing 2 yards. Dorian Baker on a WR screen for 2. AJ Rose loses 1 on a HB screen to bring up 4th down.

A leaping play by a Wildcat defender nearly ends in an interception. Ke’Shawn runs for 15 on a counter play followed by consecutive runs for 13 on an inside zone and a stretch. Shurmur hands off to Ke’Shawn again, but the play only gets 2 yards to end the run of success. Pinkey catches on an out route for 12. Then the ball goes back to Ke’Shawn for a trio of runs for 4, 11, and 1. Shurmur misses high on a slant to Lipscomb in the end zone. On another slant, he zips the ball to Pierce past another diving interception attempt, and the TD makes the score 24-7 with 2:21 played in the 4:39 played in the 2nd half.

Wilson gains 6 on an option keeper. On 2nd and 4, Pressure and Donovan Sheffield jamming the WR cause the attempted slant to skip away harmlessly. A delayed handoff is stopped at the line by Dare Odeyingbo. The Wildcats offense has been ineffective on both drives since halftime.

Vanderbilt starts at the 37 after a 14-yard punt return. After a dominant drive on the ground, Vaughn keeps churning with 4 on inside zone and 4 more off tackle. He keeps going with 2 inside to barely convert for the first down. It was very close. Play action surprisingly does not work, and the pass falls incomplete. Tennyson catches a slant for 15. A WR Screen to Kalija Lipscomb goes for 15 after he trucks Lonnie Johnson Jr. Shurmur throws the ball away on the next play. Derrick Baity Jr beats Pierce for a jump ball in the end zone and picks the pass off. The interception ends a chance to stretch Vanderbilt’s lead to 3 TDs.

Wilson tries to give the ball back, but Randall Haynie drops his chance. David Bouvier then makes a 20-yard catch along the sideline. Tight coverage forces a throw away from Touchdown Terry. CJ Conrad rips the ball away as Wiley tries to pick off the pass. The TE ends up going for 56 yards to the Vanderbilt 4. A heavy blitz ends with Charles Wright dragging Wilson down for a 3-yard sack. Snell bounces off Daley and scores from 7 yards out. Kentucky is now within a TD and a FG at 24-14 with 5:48 left in the game.

Shurmur just misses Bolar then gets hammered for a sack on the first two plays. Pierce catches a deep in for 22 to thankfully continue the drive. The first down play ends in a throw away. Ke’Shawn Vaughn rips off 26 on a HB screen then carries the ball off tackle for 1 yard. Yet another throw away follows. Pinkney gets free from a bunch formation and gains 41 yards by running over Edwards and Baity Jr then juking Westry before 3 Wildcats combine to tackle him at the 4. Vaughn gets right to the goal line but cannot quite get in to score, but he does punch in the second carry in a row. The Commodores take a 31-14 lead with 3:02 remaining.

The desperation drive starts with a dropped pass before Baker gets 11 on a slant. Donovan Sheffield reads a back-shoulder throw and picks the pass off at the Kentucky 44 where he is immediately tackled.

With 2:43 to go, Mo Hasan gets his first chance to play with the Commodores looking to eat up clock. The Kentucky edge players crash on the dangerous Vaughn, so Hasan keeps 3 times in a row for 5, 9, and 9 yards. The defense wises up, so Hasan finally gives to Vaughn for 8. Hasan gets a chance to throw and misses Pierce in the end zone. Mo reads and keeps for 2. The situational QB misses his second pass, and Guay chips in from 28 yards out. Vanderbilt is up 34-14 with 51 ticks left.

Bowden catches for 19. Baker has a 21-yard reception. Richardson tacks on 12, and the Wildcats call their first timeout with only 31 seconds on the clock. Bouvier makes a catch for a single yard. Terry throws the ball away. Cameron Tidd sees the HB screen coming and blows it up 2 yards behind the LOS. Kentucky takes another timeout even down 20 with 20 seconds to go. A blitz comes and loses Benny Snell in the flat who converts for a first down with the ball at the Vanderbilt 3. Wilson keeps for 1, and the last timeout is taken with 5 seconds left. The game ends with Terry Wilson being sacked by Jordan Griffin.

Game Stats

Vanderbilt Kentucky
Vanderbilt Kentucky
First Downs 22 14
Rushing Attempts 30 20
Rushing Yards 119 98
Passing (Comp/Att) 22/37 19/33
Passing Yards 383 270
3rd Down Conv. 8/12 2/9
4th Down Conv. 0/0 1/1
2PT Conv. 0/0 0/0
RZ (Trips-TD-FG) 6-4-2002 3-1-2000
Turnovers 2 2
Interceptions 2 2
Fumbles 0 0

Kyle Shurmur could not maintain his incredible early efficiency, but he still finished very impressively going 22/35 for 383 yards with 2 TDs, 2 interceptions, and 2 sacks. The sacks were his only “rushing attempts” and resulted in -21 yards. Mo Hasan was 0/2 passing, but he did carry the ball 4 times for 25 yards. Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran the ball 24 times for 115 yards and 2 TDs. Kalija Lipscomb, Chris Pierce, and Jared Pinkney all caught the ball 5 times. Lipscomb had 87 yards. Pierce’s receptions went for 80 yards and 2 TDs. Pinkney nearly joined the 5-80 group but only had 75 yards receiving. Vaughn also added 36 yards on 3 catches. Donaven Tennyson made the most of his 2 receptions by gaining 68 yards. Sam Dobbs and CJ Bolar had 10 and 27 yards, respectively, on their solitary chances. Defensively, Jordan Griffin was the man with 9 solo tackles, 1 of which was a sack, and an interception. Donovan Sheffield had the other interception and tacked on 3 solo tackles. Charles Wright had 2 sacks on 4 tackles, only 1 of which was assisted. Dayo Odeyingbo and Cameron Tidd had identical stat lines with 2 solo tackles for loss and one of them being a sack. Parker Thome had a disappointing, by his standards this season, day with his 2 punts traveling 93 yards but only netting 73 thanks to the touchback. Ryley Guay made his only FG attempts, coming from 31 and 28 yards.

In the end, Vanderbilt earned a comfortable win over a Top 10 opponent. The defense had one of their better games facing a run-based attacked. The offense was also outstanding except for Shurmur’s two interceptions thrown. The rushing attack also found some legs, even before Hasan entered the game.

More importantly, the Commodores are going to Atlanta. With a conference record of 7-1, the team from West End can, at worst, tie with Georgia (6-2) and Kentucky (5-2). With wins over both of them, the tiebreakers cannot go against the Commodores. Of course, considering who Vanderbilt’s final conference opponent is, the tiebreakers will not matter.

Before we get to THEM, Vanderbilt has risen further in the rankings. They are #11 in the Coaches Poll and #9 in the Media Poll. The big surprise is the BCS. The computer rankings must LOVE the Commodores because Vanderbilt is #8. Even with 2 losses, things could get intriguing being so close to the top with 2 regular season games to make a statement along with the chance to take on currently undefeated #1 Alabama who has locked up the SEC West’s spot in the SEC Championship game. Some losses ahead of them could open a door. If it was the real-life scenario, the playoff would be very possible but the luck to get into the top 2 is very unlikely. There are still 3 undefeated teams and 3 more with 1 loss ahead of Vanderbilt. The lone 2-loss team ahead of them is Georgia because reasons.

Off the field, 4 recruits will be on campus for the in-state rivalry. A 78-overall QB who we are in very good position for headlines the group. A 68-overall Guard could also be nearing Anchoring Down. A 74-overall DE is more of a battle. The final visitor is a 74-overall WR who I have not been actively recruiting, but it appears that Duke is the only other team with him even on their board. Also, the 74-overal Tackle who visited for the Kentucky game is close to closing his recruitment.

Team Rankings Preview

Vanderbilt Tennessee
Vanderbilt Tennessee
Points Per Game 31.9 (#19) 24.3 (#62)
Total Offense 379.6 (#40) 337.2 (#81)
Rush Offense 89.4 (#124) 131.5 (#109)
Pass Offense 290.2 (#3) 205.7 (#43)
Total Defense 405.3 (#117) 322.5 (#37)
Rush Defense 78.8 (#1) 150.5 (#46)
Pass Defense 326.5 (#126) 172.0 (#37)
Turnover Diff. 10 (#3) 11 (#2)

The Volunteers have a decent defense and a pass-happy offense. The passing attack will likely torch us. Their turnover stat is interesting, too. I am curious how they are forcing all those turnovers. The points per game make it seem like they might struggle in the red zone. Their ranked wins include at #13 Oregon 43-29 and while hosting #20 LSU 12-6. The other wins were 38-0 over an FCS opponent, 49-14 versus UT San Antonio, and 37-14 against Auburn. I will get revenge. They lost to Florida (19-3), at #7 Georgia (30-7), South Carolina (31-17), at #1 Alabama (34-16), and at Missourah (28-21). They are last in the SEC East at 2-5 in conference play and 0-4 in divisional games. If you are curious, Arkansas at 1-6 and Ole Miss at 0-7 are at the bottom of the SEC standings.

The Award Finalists are in this week! Each award names 3 finalists. For the Bednarik award, LaDarius Wiley is the favorite while Randall Haynie missed the cut at #5. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was not very close at #9 on the Doak Walker list. Jared Pinkney was the first to miss for the Mackey Award. On the Thorpe Award rankings, Wiley again makes the last 3 but at #3 while Haynie again misses at #5.

For this game, the two poll questions are about how I should handle pass defense since my strategy has not worked so far. For full disclosure, I have generally stayed in the 4-3 against 3 WRs or less then gone Nickel against 4 WRs and Dime or Quarters (7 DBs) against 5 WRs. Should I keep that same basic rule? The other question is how much blitzing to do. I have mostly used just a 4-man rush with 2 deep safeties to help the man coverage underneath but have used some single high with a QB spy underneath to stop option attacks or QB scrambles. Should I keep that the same or change things? The polls will close at 11:59 PM Wednesday, and your suggestions against the orange heathens are more than welcome. I also really wanted to put in a question about going rogue for this game just to run the score up as much as I can, but I think I can do just fine within the rules.

Poll

Should I keep the same personnel strategy?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes
    (13 votes)
  • 33%
    No, use more DBs
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    No, use fewer DBs
    (1 vote)
21 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Does the blitz strategy change?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    No
    (3 votes)
  • 40%
    BRING. THE. HEAT.
    (8 votes)
  • 45%
    Play coverage and let the DL bring the pressure
    (9 votes)
20 votes total Vote Now