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Let’s Try That Again: Week 6 @ Missouri

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Why does the game think a game against a Big XII team counts as a conference game for Vanderbilt?

Vanderbilt v Missouri
Secret weapon Jared Pinkney made a big impression on this game.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The similarities between the virtual and real-life game are rare. Both games were at Faurot Field with Vanderbilt entering with 4 wins. Other than that, the only similarity are the uniform combinations used. The differences are much more extensive. In real life, the Commodores were nearing “do or die” time with 3 games remaining and needing 2 wins for bowl eligibility. The visitors also only had 1 conference win instead of 3 along with 5 losses on the ledger. Vanderbilt was certainly not ranked. The Yankee Tigers were 5-4, not 4-1. The game itself was exciting but marred in the minds of Vanderbilt fans by a very painful goal-to-go scenario that ended in a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line thanks to 4 straight runs between the guards. That game would end with Missouri on top 33-28. Can I do better?

Vanderbilt receives the opening kickoff, matching reality. The powerful 14 MPH winds give Missouri an easy touchback. Vaughn takes a handoff on the opening play for 9 yards then goes off-tackle for 1 and a first down. Shurmur shrugs off a would-be sack, but the hit delays the throw which leads to an interception, immediately tackled, at the Vanderbilt 40. Not a good start for the second week in a row for the QB.

Drew Lock starts by throwing for 4 yards to Johnathon Johnson. On 2nd down, Lock forces his intended receiver to lay out, and the ball falls incomplete. Damarea Crockett catches on an angle route but only gets 4. Missouri goes for it on 4th down at the Vanderbilt 32. Crockett carries for 3 and a first down. Missouri’s big TE Albert Okwuegbunam runs a slant for 10. All Curls is covered tightly, so Lock throws away. Lock keeps the ball himself for 17 yards down to the 1-yard line. Johnson catches over the middle for the touchdown. Capitalizing on the early turnover gives Missouri a 7-0 lead with 5:19 still on the clock in the 1st quarter.

The faith in Kyle Shurmur is shown when the first play is a pass. Pinkney runs a wheel route from a bunch to Shurmur’s right and gets open for 23. Missouri tries to roll their coverage, but a corner route to Bolar, again from a bunch, gets him open for 16. The ball goes back to Vaughn inside for 3. Shurmur badly misfires on a dig to Pierce who had plenty of room. Lipscomb wins against press man coverage, but the ball is left short and knocked down. But wait! The safety is called for defensive pass interference! Vanderbilt gets a new set of downs to the Missouri 18. Weak side power is taken for 8 by Vaughn. Against a shown blitz and with slant routes outside, Pinkney slips into the flat then sprints up the sideline to score! The score is tied at 7 with 3:37 left in the 1st.

Kicking into the wind, Guay cannot get a touchback, and the ball is returned to the Missouri 32. The first play is from the pistol with Lock having men behind and on either side. A PA pass with a 5-man rush coming forces a quick throwaway. Donovan Sheffield steps up on 2nd down to make a hit and force the pass to be dropped. The next pass to Nate Brown goes right by Sheffield’s earhole and is taken for 55 yards. Lock hurries his team to the line and keeps on a read option. Wiley diagnoses it immediately and crashes from his safety spot to make the tackle just behind the line of scrimmage. Crockett takes a draw 14 yards for the TD while holding off Jordan Griffin for the last 6. Missouri regains the advantage 14-7 with 3:01 to go in the first.

Ke’Shawn goes inside zone for 6 followed by a stretch that loses 1 then off-tackle, away from a shown blitz, for no gain when the blocking fails. On 3rd down, it looked like going away from the pressure would work, but the left side of the line broke down. Into the wind, Thome rugbies one down to the Missouri 19.

Crockett goes for 2. And then runs right by blitzers for 80 yards and 6 points. How he managed not to get tackled is a mystery as Missouri stretches the lead to 14 points. The scoreboard shows 21-7 in favor of the home team with one minute left in the first quarter. This is going to be a long game.

Vanderbilt starts by going to Vaughn on a weak-side counter for 13. Bruno Reagan false starts on a Shurmur hard count. A well-blocked screen to Lipscomb makes up for it by getting 24 yards. Shurmur fakes an inside handoff to Jaire George then flips backside to Ke’Shawn Vaughn for 3. The first quarter ends with Vanderbilt down 14 but at the Missouri 40. Pierce starts the new quarter by catching a slant for 9 yards. Pinkney gains 8 on an out route. Vaughn gets nine more on another counter, this time from the shotgun. Jaire George makes a catch in the flat to gain 8 after trucking the first would-be tackler. Vaughn is stopped inside at the 4 to bring up 3rd and 1. A power run to Vaughn gets the first down and the touchdown! 21-14 with 5:19 until halftime.

To start the next drive, Jordan Griffin nearly picks off a pass to the flat but settles for a tackle for no gain on Larry Roundtree III. Johnson runs a post between the deep safeties for 22 followed by a diving catch on a slant for 6. Lock looks back to a HB in the flat, Crockett this time, but Charles Wright jumps between them to pick the pass off at the Vanderbilt 47 and take the ball all the way home! The score is 21 all with 4:38 left to halftime. Feeling frisky, Coach O’Gold goes against the wishes of the people (since it had been so feverishly suggested before the poll) and has Guay attempt an onside kick. It fails miserably, so Lock leads his offense back out at the Vanderbilt 42.

Crockett starts the short-field drive by breaking tackles for 16 yards. Brown catches a WR screen and gets 6. Knox runs an out route that only nets 1 yard. Lock keeps and barely stretches out to get the first down. The QB keeps again up the middle for 3. Crockett carries for another 5. Emanuel Hall wins on a slant route and catches a TD. 28-21 Missouri with 3:09 until halftime. The upside is that with the onside kick is that Vanderbilt has plenty of time left to score before halftime.

A first-play deep shot to CJ Bolar hangs in the air much too long and is picked off and returned to the Missouri 48. The extra time on the clock looks more daunting now. Missouri’s hurry-up offense has not used much clock, whether due to scoring or giving the ball back to Vanderbilt.

Crockett gets 9 on a drive-opening handoff. Lock then stands in the pocket FOREVER before finally finding Hall, who had eventually shaken Williams, for a TD. The onside kick has unquestionably backfired. The Yankee Tigers lead 35-21 with 2:24 until halftime.

Looking to find something positive, Shurmur is forced to throw the ball away when no one gets open. Ke’Shawn carries inside for 7, and the Commodores hurry to the line. Shurmur throws the pivot at Bolar’s feet. The catch is made, but the receiver is running backwards at the catch and loses 3. Missouri calls timeout to force the punt with 1:56 to go. Thome outkicks the coverage a bit with the wind behind him, and Missouri gets a 13-yard return to start at their own 45.

Missouri’s first play sees Hall catching a pass for 12. A bad drop follows. Dayo Odeyingbo gets to Lock as he tries to throw, forcing an incompletion. 3rd and 10 with 1:36 to go at the Vanderbilt 43. Somehow, Lock throws it past Sheffield’s earhole again to get 21 to Brown. Crockett catches an angle for 9 more. The second Missouri timeout is called with 1:28 left facing 2nd and 1 at the Vanderbilt 12. Lock gets nothing on a keeper before Crockett carries left for 6 and a first down. A weird 5-wide speed option gets blown up for a loss of 3. Hall drops one while dragging his toes in the back corner of the end zone. Johnson catches and sheds a tackle to get into the endzone. 42-21 Missouri with 36 seconds on the clock. It REALLY went south after that onside.

With the game having gotten so far away from his Commodores, Coach O’Gold decides to be overly aggressive. Lipscomb catches another screen for 15 and gets out of bounds with 26 ticks remaining with Vandy at their own 44. Shurmur rolls right and finds Pinkney for 16 just before his TE goes out of bounds. From a bunch, Lipscomb runs a wheel behind a go from Sam Dobbs. Shurmur gets it out quickly, and Dobbs makes a block while Kalija goes up the sideline for 33 to the Missouri 6. Vanderbilt uses a timeout with 14 seconds until halftime. Shurmur finds Lipscomb again, this time on a slant, to get a much-needed TD. The frantic flurry of scoring before halftime has made the score 42-28 with 12 seconds until halftime.

Crockett loses two and the half ends, but Vanderbilt must kick the ball back to Missouri to start the second half down 14. Drew Lock starts the half firing a slant to Hall to gain 16. A WR screen to Knox gets 8. Lock keeps for 13 before somehow eluding a blitz to run for 21. Next, Lock draws the defenders’ attention only to pitch to Crockett on a speed option for 9 frustrating yards. Tidd stuffs an inside run for a loss of 1. It is 3rd and 2 at the Vanderbilt 9. Randall Haynie separates the receiver from the ball to force 4th down. Tucker McCann converts the short FG to stretch the lead to 45-28 with 5:37 left in Q3.

Pierce catches a pass 15 yards downfield, but the first tackle attempt makes him stumble backwards. The play ends as a gain of only 8 because forward progress in this game is broken in that regard. Bruno Reagan gets abused and shoved into Vaughn for a loss of 1. With 3 WRs to the left, Pierce sits in the flat and is left uncovered for 10. The Missouri safety drops an interception on a pass intended for Bolar. Pressure forces Shurmur to throw the ball away. Vaughn gets a first down with a 12-yard HB screen against a heavy blitz. Tennyson catches a hitch then spins upfield to get 8. He is injured on the play. Vaughn carries for 1 yard on a counter. Blasingame goes inside for 3 and a new set of downs. More Dog Lawyer power gets 6. From a bunch, Bolar gets free for 15. Shurmur scrambles for a gain of 2, but Justin Skule is called for holding. Vaughn shows up in the screen game again for a gain of 19. The next pass play takes too long to develop, and Shurmur throws it into the stands. Vaughn loses one on an inside carry. 4th and 2 with just over a minute in the 3rd quarter and down 17 means Coach O’Gold is going for it. Vaughn gets 8 yards on a handoff to get a first down. The new set of downs gets a poor start when Shurmur misses Lipscomb on a slant. Second down is not any better when an out to Pierce is nearly picked off. Pinkney catches in the flat for 6 to the 3-yard line. This brings up another 4th down and Vanderbilt again going for it. Vaughn takes the ball and gets within inches of converting but Missouri will take over. That defensive stand may have won Missouri the game.

The next play is of course a 99-yard TD pass with Lock somehow throwing past a ton of flying arms and bodies and Hall shrugging off the tackler who hits him as the ball arrives. Vanderbilt trails by 24 to start the 4th quarter. The failure to convert on 4th and goal followed by an aggressive blitz in an effort to force a safety has made things dire.

The Vanderbilt drive gets off to a good start when Pinkney catches a deep out for 14. No one gets open downfield, and the ball is thrown away. Jared Pinkney snags another pass for 16. Lipscomb follows with 24 on a post. Vaughn sits down over the middle for 6 through the air. Pierce catches a slant for 12 to the 2 but loses 1 on a catch in the flat. Dobbs catches another pass in the flat for nothing. Vaughn gets caught from the backside for no gain. Blasingame slams a counter into the end zone finally. After the touchdown, the score is 52-34, so Vanderbilt goes for 2 to cut it to 16. But the reliable bunch formation fails. The lead is still 18 with only 4:26 left in regulation.

The defense needs to force a 3-and-out. Wiley gets Lock for no gain for a good start before a forced throw away gives a little hope. On 3rd and 10, Hall, of course, gets open for 24. Lock scrambles for 11 while outrunning Jordan Griffin. WHY IS DREW LOCK FASTER THAN JORDAN GRIFFIN?! Richaud Floyd holds on through contact for a catch. Randall Haynie tips a pass that Daley picks off! Vanderbilt gets the ball back at their own 18 with 3:35 to go down 3 scores.

Missouri leave Pinkney open up the seam on Four Verticals twice in a row for 29 and 23 yards. A third throw to him is knocked down. A forced throw downfield to Trey Ellis is nearly picked. Shurmur underthrows to Bolar, but the WR adjusts and catches at the 11. A penalty for a facemask moves the ball inside the 6. The flat pass to Pinkney gets into the endzone this time. Shurmur throws back to the flat for the successful 2PT conversion. Vanderbilt still has a lot to do with not a lot of time to do it while trailing 52-42 with 2:53 remaining. The onside kick somehow skips past everyone to go out of bounds. ARE YOU HAPPY?!

Drew Lock keeps the ball and loses 3 yards. Vanderbilt’s first timeout is taken with 2:48 left. Lock uses the same play and loses 4 more yards. Timeout number 2 Is called. Lock ignores (literally) a hit from a blitzing Wiley while throwing a dart past the hands of Joejuan Williams to Brown for 16. The whole play was just the game yelling, “F--- Vandy!” Fortunately, the big losses on 1st and 2nd down means Missouri has 4th and 1. The FG unit is coming out. Unfortunately, Zach Cunningham is not here to leap the line. McCann misses! Even when Vanderbilt has good luck, the luck comes at a time when it likely does not matter.

A forced throw between zones is knocked down. Vaughn catches on a wheel but cannot keep his feet and goes out for only 4. Lipscomb catches for 11 and a first down. A throw to Pinkney on a corner is just tipped away. Vaughn only gets 2 as a he races out of bounds on a screen. It is 4th and 8. The pass falls incomplete and for some stupid reason LaDarius Wiley was in the game because auto subs are stupid. The failure to convert should end it with only 1:53 in the game and the Commodores without a timeout.

Crocket loses 3 then gains 2. Everyone on defense is caught off guard when Lock actually throws a pass to Albert O to get a first down against a jailbreak blitz called in hopes of getting a fumble. The completion gets Lock over 400 yards through the air on the final play of the game. Faurot Field is my personal hell.

Game Stats

Vanderbilt Missouri
Vanderbilt Missouri
First Downs 23 16
Rushing Attempts 22 25
Rushing Yards 87 199
Passing (Comp/Att) 33/49 23/34
Passing Yards 408 402
3rd Down Conv. 6/12 9/12
4th Down Conv. 2/4 1/1
2PT Conv. 1/2 0/0
RZ (Trips-TD-FG) 6-5-0 5-4-1
Turnovers 2 2
Interceptions 2 2
Fumbles 0 0

The offense had a great day, so the individual stats look very good, especially passing. Kyle Shurmur was 33/49 passing for 408 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs without being sacked. On the ground, Vaughn led the way with 74 yards and a TD from 19 carries. Khari Blasingame also ran the ball 3 times for 13 yards and a TD. Jared Pinkney had a massive day with 10 catches for 151 yards and a pair of TDs. Lipscomb was also very effective with 6 receptions for 113 yards and a TD. Vaughn caught 6 passes for 42 yards. Pierce and Bolar both had 4 receptions for 39 and 47 yards, respectively. Donaven Tennyson and Jaire George had identical stat lines of 1 catch for 8 yards. Sam Dobbs gained no yards on his lone catch.

On defense, a few Commodores did have good games. Wiley led from the back end with 11 tackles (10 solo) and 6 for losses. Tae Daley had a single interception while making 5 tackles which were all solo. Charles Wright also had an interception and 2 tackles (both solo). Parker Thome’s leg was not used as much, but he was still very effective with 2 punts for 101 yards with a net of 88.

In the end, the loss brings Vanderbilt to 4-2 (4-1) on the season. Losing a conference game so early makes Atlanta seem less likely, but it is far from out of the question. I blame all of you crazies for the onside kick suggestion. Are you happy after seeing 3 of them? You cannot surprise the other team, which is why the wacky ones work in reality. The other team is not expecting it then reacts poorly. In the video game, none of the trickery or surprise factor is possible. This time it probably let the game get away from me.

The other big factor was again the hurry up 4- and 5-wide offense Missouri uses in the game. The tactic is stupidly overpowered for the AI in this game because your players never get set and ready to go. The biggest reason is that it often takes some pre-play adjustments and manual manipulation to get defenders, particularly safeties, aligned for coverage. The game struggles with how to position safeties for covering slot receivers, which those 4- and 5-wide formations pick apart. Oh, and QBs running the ball remain even more annoying than they are in real life, which is quite the feat.

As a result of the loss, the Commodores dropped from both Top 25 polls. They did receive 3 votes in the Coaches Poll (#25 Duke has 198) and would be #32. In the Media Poll, Vanderbilt earned 67 votes (#25 Kansas State has 262) and would be #30. They return home to face Nevada who should be a major step down in competition. As you can see below, the Wolfpack defense has struggled much like the real-life team did in 2018, but the offense has not impressed either.

Team Rankings Preview

Vanderbilt Nevada
Vanderbilt Nevada
Points Per Game 30.2 (#30) 21.0 (#92)
Total Offense 347.2 (#74) 312.0 (#110)
Rush Offense 79.5 (#125) 127.2 (#113)
Pass Offense 267.7 (#12) 184.8 (#61)
Total Defense 387.5 (#106) 370.5 (#97)
Rush Defense 75.0 (#1) 188.3 (#110)
Pass Defense 312.5 (#125) 182.2 (#67)
Turnover Diff. 8 (#1) 1 (#52)

For the polls, I have three questions. First, against a bad defense and very bad run defense, how much effort should go into getting a better rushing attack going? Do you all think it needs to happen, should be the focal point to start but not forced, or realize that trying to fix what is not broken is a recipe for disaster? Obviously, trying to add the onside kicks is exactly why the last option exists, but I feel confident that I can still find a way to win, even with a bad first half.

DO YOU SEE WHY I HATE ONSIDE KICKS IN THIS GAME?!

At what point should I consider using some backups? The answers contain options for both lead (14 or 21 points) and how early those scores matter (3rd or 4th quarter).

Poll

How much effort should be put into sparking the run game?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    MUST happen this week
    (3 votes)
  • 44%
    Focus on the run early but do not force it
    (8 votes)
  • 38%
    The offense is not broken. Stop.
    (7 votes)
18 votes total Vote Now

Poll

DO YOU SEE WHY I HATE ONSIDE KICKS IN THIS GAME?!

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    What are you talking about?
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Practice makes perfect
    (1 vote)
  • 93%
    Sorry you suck
    (15 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now

Poll

When should some backups see the field?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Up 14+ in 2nd Half
    (2 votes)
  • 38%
    Up 21+ in 2nd Half
    (7 votes)
  • 16%
    Up 14+ in 4th Quarter
    (3 votes)
  • 33%
    Up 21+ in 4th Quarter
    (6 votes)
18 votes total Vote Now

The polls close at 2 PM on Wednesday.