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Let’s Try That Again: Week 7 vs Nevada

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Matching the real-life Commodores dominance in this game will be difficult.

Nevada v Vanderbilt
Can we please never wear this uniform combo again? I would take grey helmets and pants over the white in this set.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

In what was a Week 2 matchup, Vanderbilt romped to a 41-10 victory over Nevada. The win got Derek Mason’s squad to 2-0 and while stymieing an offense many thought would be highly explosive. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had a bit of a coming out party with 93 yards, including a 46-yard TD, on only 11 carries. Hopefully, he can have a similarly explosive day to spur a virtual Commodore rushing attack that is one of the worst in college football. You can be assured that no concerns about pass protection or whatever other factors went into his limited usage early in 2018 will limit his carries today.

The location is the same with the game coming 6 weeks later in the season, but the uniforms are different. Derek Mason has used the white helmet, black jersey, and white pants look a few times at Vanderbilt, and this was one such time. I really hate that combination, so the helmets and pants were both flipped to being gold. I really like that look. I have to play the game. Oh, and James Franklin never would have used White-Black-White.

I finally win a coin toss and get to kick the ball away which, ironically, continues the trend of the ball starting in the opposite team’s hands from reality. First play is a PA pass on an in route to slot receiver Kaleb Fossum from QB Ty Gangi for 12 yards. Kelton Moore gets 2 yards on a handoff then 5 more. Jordan Griffin comes on a blitz and sacks Gangi to bring up 4th down and a punt.

Ellis returns the punt 13 yards to the Vanderbilt 33. A toss to the wide side of the field for Ke’Shawn Vaughn gets nothing. The RB is slow to get up on the play. On 2nd down, Nevada shows a corner blitz. The play originally has Pierce running a deep in route over a 2-yard hitch by slot receiver CJ Bolar. Bolar is hot routed to a go, either to take advantage of CB stepping back after faking blitz or a safety or linebacker sliding over. The safety gets over in time, but Shurmur finds Pierce on the deep in with space enough to get 23 yards. Blasingame gets 4 on an inside counter then 5 on a draw to make it 3rd and inches. Blasingame bounces a zone carry to the right for 6. The injury report says Vaughn will miss 2 quarters with back spasms, but, with a low risk of re-injury, Vaughn is reinserted. He immediately takes an inside zone for 7 before losing 1 going off-tackle after Lipscomb whiffed on his block outside. Shurmur hits Bolar on a slant, with Vaughn and Blasingame flanking him in the backfield, for 8 yards. Vaughn carries inside for 3 more yards. Shurmur misfires on the next play while throwing off his back foot. He finds Vaughn in the flat on the next play, but the gain of only 4 yards leaves 3 yards to go on 4th down from the Nevada 7. Guay makes the short FG for the first points after 4:49 has been played.

To start Nevada’s second drive, Wiley hits Gangi on a safety blitz just as the Wolfpack QB releases the pass. The ball flutters towards Dayo Odeyingbo but the defensive lineman bobbles and drops the football. Moore carries for 9 and leaves 3rd and inches. The 3rd down pass to Trevion Armstrong in the flat loses 2 yards and brings up 4th down.

Vanderbilt’s possession starts at their own 37 with a screen to Kalija Lipscomb that goes nowhere before Shurmur gets sacked by a heavy blitz on an intended deep pass. Lipscomb wins in one-on-one coverage to get over the top, but Shurmur overthrows him. I did not know that could happen.

Nevada will start at their own 34 after Thome’s punt landed just out of bounds. Armstrong catches a curl for 5 yards as the first quarter ends. Another curl, this time to Fossum, is a yard short of a 1st down. Griffin gets another sack on the same blitz as his first.

Ellis returns the punt 12 yards to the Vanderbilt 40. Jaire George misses his blocking assignment completely, and Vaughn is tackled a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Shurmur runs for his life and somehow gets 4 yards. Lipscomb catches a curl thrown low and away then shoves the defender away with a stiff arm before running all the way to the end zone. The play goes 57-yards and, with Guay’s PAT conversion, makes the score 10-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.

Gangi forces a throw to Armstrong in double coverage that somehow finds the intended target for 9 yards. Moore takes a counter 12 yards when the defense bites. Fossum drops a pass with hard contact by Randall Haynie. The blitz comes on second down, but Gangi finds Moore for 3 in flat. Another blitz sees former Vanderbilt commit McLane Mannix gain 12 yards on a slant. Against a new set of downs, Jordan Griffin reacts perfectly to halt a Moore carry 2 yards behind the LOS. Vanderbilt runs the ensuing second down play from their base 4-3 from the first time all game. Nevada had used 4 WRs for every snap previously to force the Commodores into Nickel personnel. Gangi holds the ball too long, and Josh Smith, playing his first snap of the game, gets the sack. The Wolfpack go back to 4 WRs. Vanderbilt employs a Dime package with Nevada facing 3rd and 20. Sheffield knocks the deep pass down. The punt skips into the end zone for a touchback.

A drive-opening pitch to Vaughn gets 3 before the RB churns out 5 yards on a counter and 4 yards off tackle from a shotgun formation. Pinkney releases late on play action but only gets a single yard as he stumbles out of bounds after the catch. Shurmur finds Lipscomb crossing the field for 16. The Commodores are near midfield with just over 2 minutes until halftime. The Wolfpack leave CJ Bolar wide open on a post, and Vanderbilt has their second 50+ yard TD pass of the game. The Commodores lead 17-0 with 1:55 to go in the first half.

Mannix beats Sheffield on a slant then uses his speed to gain 16 yards. Armstrong gets 15 on a post pattern. Brendan O’Leary-Orang then toasts Joejuan Williams for a 42-yard TD. The drive cuts the lead to 17-7 and only takes 20 seconds off the clock with no timeouts used. The hurry-up is really quick, and teams typically lose only a second after a first down.

Still having 1:35 and all 3 timeouts, Coach O’Gold decides to try for some points. Shurmur lobs one to Pinkney perfectly on a corner for 19 then fires to Lipscomb on a post for 23 off play action. The QB actually gives to Vaughn on the next play for a gain of 7. Vanderbilt has the ball on the Nevada 29 with just under a minute to go and still possesses all 3 timeouts. No one comes open, so Shurmur throws the ball away with 36 seconds on the clock. Vaughn tries to pound for the first down inside, but only gets one yard. Facing a 47-yard FG attempt, Vanderbilt goes for it on 4th down. Shurmur’s pass goes to Cody Markel in the flat but only gains one yard when the TE has to turn around to catch the ball thrown behind him.

Gangi keeps the ball against retreating coverage intended to defend a deep pass and runs for 13. The Nevada quarterback throws the next pass under duress, and Sheffield drops a chance for an interception. The Hail Mary is somehow completed in a tangle of bodies but is well short of the end zone as the clock expires. The play does add 48 yards to the Nevada passing stats.

Two trends have become clear in the first half. First, Nevada is primarily using a 3-3-5 defense and shifting their front 6 frequently along with walking a safety down and/or using a corner to load the box. It makes it hard to run from under center. Also, Vaughn’s laughable speed attribute leaves him lacking the speed to get to the edge. The second has been mentioned already. Nevada is very committed to using 4 WRs, so the defense has been stuck in the Nickel. The primary two defenses have been man across the board with 2 deep safeties (or bringing one of the safeties on a blitz) or blitzing both linebackers, which are Jordan Griffin and Charles Wright.

Vanderbilt starts the 2nd half with the ball. Shurmur fakes inside to George then flips to Vaughn, but a LB is waiting to stop the play right at the LOS. Ke’Shawn only gets 2 on 2nd down. The attempted HB screen to Vaughn loses 12 yards due to a dumb stumble animation where Vaughn goes flailing the wrong direction when bumped as he catches the ball. Thome uses a rugby-style punt to the send the ball skittering out of bounds at the Nevada 37.

To start their first drive of the half, Ty Gangi hits Armstrong for 10 on an out. Williams again gets easily beat by O’Leary-Orang, but the ball is slightly overthrown. The diving catch still gains 25 yards. Armstrong catches for 18 yards against a zone. Jordan Griffin pulls Gangi down on a keeper for a 3-yard loss. Nevada comes out with only 2 WRs, and Gangi throws the ball through the back of the end zone. Nevada immediately reverts to 4 wideouts, and Moore scores from 12 yards out on a HB screen. The lead is only 17-14 for Vanderbilt with 4:40 to go in Q3.

The response is immediate when Wakefield gets a huge return! Vanderbilt will start at the Nevada 45! Shurmur comes out throwing and hits Bolar on an out that turns into an 18-yard gain. Vaughn gets 12 yards on a draw. Pierce follows by catching a curl for 11 to the Nevada 4. Shurmur loses three on a roll-out when he tries to keep the ball and run for a TD. Vaughn gets those 3 back with a counter. Tennyson catches for nothing with another dumb catch animation that turns him inside instead of taking him to the edge for a run into the end zone. Ryley Guay makes another short FG to expand Vanderbilt’s lead to 20-14 with 2:36 left in the 3rd.

The defense comes out needing a stop. Moore carries inside on a counter for 9. Griffin has another TFL on Moore to bring up 3rd and 3. Gangi keeps and gets tackled forward by Tidd for the first. Fossum catches an out for 8 after an immediate tackle. Tidd tackles Moore for no gain then Wright stops the same ball carrier just short of a first down. Coach O’Gold is tired of being caught by fakes and plays punt safe which stuffs the snap to the up back.

Vanderbilt comes out on the right side of midfield, and Vaughn gets a good run for 11 yards. The RB gets 5 more on a draw. Tennyson catches underneath with no defenders around and gets 15 as the quarter ends. Lipscomb sits down on an option route and gains 11 to the Nevada 3. Jaire George gets 1 yard on a FB dive. Ke’Shawn goes in untouched from a shotgun handoff. Up 12 in the 4th quarter, Coach O’Gold decides 13 points is not enough and goes for 2. Bolar runs a slant then stops mid-route to catch the 2PT conversion. Vanderbilt is up 28-14 with 6:24 to play.

Nevada goes back to a very familiar route combo that results in 14 yards for Armstrong on an out route. They are using 3 WRs to one side and having both inside options run outs with the outside WR going deep. The innermost WR is often covered by a LB or safety, so it is difficult to get out to cover the out route. Daley and Wright combine to get Moore down for a loss of one on a sweep handoff. O’Leary-Orang drops a slant before Sheffield drops a should-be interception after Gangi throws an out route late and off his back foot.

Bolar starts the next drive running a post from the slot with both wideouts Lipscomb and Pierce running go routes to draw the safeties. Shurmur hits Bolar who eats up turf until being tackled after 46 yards to the Nevada 24. Vaughn loses 2 against a very heavy blitz. He gets 7 on the next play though. Pierce gets 13 yards on another curl. The big-bodied receiver is great on them. Shurmur is 19/22 for 304 yards so far. Shurmur rolls out and finds nothing he likes then tucks the ball for 4 down to the Nevada 1. Vaughn easily gets in to score on the next play. Vanderbilt is now comfortably ahead 35-14 with 3:46 to play. Since the lead is now 21 points, here come the backups, and that should mean Shurmur’s passing stats will be final.

The Wolfpack decide to attack the substitutes, and O’Leary-Orang beats Haynie, who has taken the place of Joejuan Williams, for 30. A blitz forces a throwaway during an intended HB screen. Gangi scrambles for 4 before Colin Anderson makes the tackle. Nevada runs the same play with a similar result, though Kenny Hebert makes this stop. The Wolfpack try to convert with a pass on 4th down, but pressure comes, and Darion Debrossard gets a sack.

Mo Hasan trots out for his first action of the season and hands the ball to Khari Blasingame for only 1. Hasan misses Ellis badly on the next play. The athletic QB then scrambles for 6 on 3rd down, but it is still 4th and 3 to go from the Nevada 49. Thome lobs one to the 14, but a 13-yard return gives Nevada better-than-expected field position.

Mannix beats Haynie deep for 43 yards then O’Leary-Orang beats Elijah Hamilton for a 30-yard TD. The backups are not ready to play the aggressive style typically employed by the Commodore corners, especially against 2 very speedy wideouts. Vanderbilt only leads by 14 now at 35-21, but the clock shows only 1:30 to play

Trey Ellis snags the onside kick attempt. Hasan gives to Blasingame on a read option, and the powerful back gains 21 yards. The same happens, this time on a triple option, but only gets 1 yard. The defensive end bites down on the 3rd read option, but Hasan only gets a yard due to quick reactions by a safety and a linebacker. Hasan finds Bolar wide open on a hitch route that turns into 11 yards and a first down with 1:12 on the clock. Hasan keeps for no gain. Mo keeps again and spins past one defender before battling through the tackle of another to score an 8-yard TD. Vanderbilt is again very comfortable with a 42-21 lead and less than 30 seconds remaining.

Even without going to press coverage, O’Leary-Orang gets over the top on Haynie for 36 yards. The safety was late getting over. Gangi spikes the ball with 14 seconds left. Gangi uses his legs on a speed option for 12 yards before another spike with 6 seconds to go. O’Leary-Orang catches the ball and breaks two tackles for 26 yards as the game ends.

Game Stats

Vanderbilt Nevada
Vanderbilt Nevada
First Downs 17 17
Rushing Attempts 35 21
Rushing Yards 124 45
Passing (Comp/Att) 20/24 22/30
Passing Yards 315 422
3rd Down Conv. 6/12 3/10
4th Down Conv. 0/1 0/2
2PT Conv. 1/1 0/0
RZ (Trips-TD-FG) 5-3-2 3-1-0
Turnovers 0 0
Interceptions 0 0
Fumbles 0 0

Vanderbilt’s offense a lot of success, and it showed on the scoreboard and team stats. As mentioned earlier, Kyle Shurmur completed 19 of the 22 passes he threw for 304 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions. He had a really efficient day. Mo Hasan was 1/2 throwing the ball for 11 yards. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had another subpar game, carrying the ball 20 times for 68 yards and 2 TDs. Khari Blasingame hit a season-high with 6 carries and 43 yards, with 21 of those yards coming on one play. Mo Hasan also carried 4 times for 16 yards and a TD. Shurmur is credited with 4 carries for a net of -4 yards. Jaire George’s lone touch gained a single yard. The star of the receiving corps was CJ Bolar with 5 receptions for 135 yards and a TD. Kalija Lipscomb also hauled in 5 passes for 106 yards and a TD. Chris Pierce made 3 snags for 47 yards. Pinkney, Tennyson, and Vaughn all had 2 catches for 20, 15, and -9 yards, respectively. Cody Markel made 1 catch for 1 yard. Defensively, Jordan Griffin stood out again with 7 tackles (6 solo). Of those, 2 were sacks along with 3 other tackles for loss. Josh Smith and Darion DeBrossard both had a 1 sack each. Donovan Sheffield knocked down 3 passes. Ryley Guay had an easy daying going 2 for 2 with a long of 24 yards. The reliable boot of Parker Thome cranked out 3 punts for 119 yards and 106 yards of net.

Overall, Nevada took advantage after I started sneaking safeties down to cover the short route combo used to get so many completions early. Even before going to the read option with Hasan in the game, the Vanderbilt rushing attack also found a little more success from the shotgun.

Before we get to next week’s opponent, there is some news on the recruiting front. There will be visits from an 83-overall punter, an 83-overall kicker, and a 68-overall CB for the next game. Parker Thome will be gone, so his replacement is of the highest priority. Ryley Guay is the lone kicker on the roster, and, with only one more year for him, it would be prudent to avoid calling on a true freshman kicker. While the CB room has a lot of talent returning, Sheffield will be gone, and virtual Joejuan Williams could make the same decision as real-life Joejuan Williams. The good news is that all 3 recruits coming to visit have Vanderbilt as prohibitive favorites and could even commit on the visit. They will get to see the Commodores host #5 Georgia.

Team Rankings Preview

Vanderbilt Georgia
Vanderbilt Georgia
Points Per Game 31.9 (#23) 28.8 (#35)
Total Offense 360.3 (#64) 370.0 (#47
Rush Offense 85.9 (#124) 217.7 (#14)
Pass Offense 274.4 (#6) 152.3 (#105)
Total Defense 398.9 (#116) 256.6 (#11)
Rush Defense 70.7 (#1) 123.8 (#11)
Pass Defense 328.1 (#126) 132.7 (#9)
Turnover Diff. 8 (#2) -4 (#112)

The Bulldogs of the SEC East will be coming to Nashville with a stellar defense and punishing rushing attack as you would expect if you remember the 2018 Georgia Bulldogs. They do seem to have a habit of losing the turnover battle while Vanderbilt has been very good at not giving the ball away with a good habit of taking it away. Georgia is 5-1 (4-1) with the lone loss coming in week 1 hosting Texas A&M (33-23). Why is that a conference loss? They stayed at home to beat South Carolina (24-10) and North Texas (38-3) before traveling to Ole Miss for a 27-6 win. Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs whipped THEM in Athens 30-7, and their last outing was a 31-27 win in Columbia, Missouri.

The first poll question is very interesting to me. It seems like something the real James Franklin might do. Vanderbilt fans will probably have a very negative reaction to the concept. Should Coach O’Gold use Mo Hasan in a limited package, mostly read option, to bolster the rushing attack? The next one has to do with the opponent. How aggressive should I be on 4th and short (less than 3) in plus territory? I feel great sadness that I cannot call a Fake FG handoff to the kicker to satisfy the aggressive approach. Does the previous answer change with an early lead or deficit? The polls close at 11:59 PM Friday.

Poll

Should Mo Hasan be used as a situation QB?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    NO! Who are you?! Derek Mason?
    (7 votes)
  • 57%
    Sure, try using it a few times.
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    Go for a true 2-QB system!
    (1 vote)
  • 11%
    Why is he not starting?!
    (3 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How aggressive should the strategy be on 4th and short in plus territory?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Less. Take points and play field position
    (2 votes)
  • 15%
    The same.
    (4 votes)
  • 34%
    Slightly more.
    (9 votes)
  • 42%
    Go. For. It.
    (11 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Does the strategy change with an early lead or deficit?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    No change.
    (5 votes)
  • 61%
    More aggressive trailing
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Less aggressive trailing
    (0 votes)
  • 15%
    More aggressive leading
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Less aggressive leading
    (1 vote)
26 votes total Vote Now