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Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 17: Something to build on, perhaps?

Vanderbilt didn’t get blown out!

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Five Factors

Five Factors Vanderbilt Ole Miss
Five Factors Vanderbilt Ole Miss
Plays 92 65
Total Yards 456 470
Yards Per Play 5 7.2
Rushing Attempts 46 28
Rushing Yards 222 152
Rushing YPP 4.8 5.4
Passing Attempts 46 37
Passing Yards 234 318
Passing YPP 5.1 8.6
Rushing Success Rate 37.00% 46.40%
Passing Success Rate 30.40% 54.10%
Success Rate 33.70% 50.80%
Avg. Field Position 19.8 31.5
PP40 2.83 4.43
Turnovers 1 1

I’ll be the first to admit that the box score from Saturday night’s game isn’t pretty. Vanderbilt did average 5 yards per play against a pretty good Ole Miss defense. The Vanderbilt defense honestly probably did better than expected against the high-powered Ole Miss offense, “only” allowing 7.2 yards per play and a success rate just over 50 percent. Going in, I thought those numbers would be a lot worse.

Vanderbilt’s offensive success rate was bad, to be sure, but Clark Lea made up for that a bit by being extremely aggressive on fourth down: the Commodores went for it on fourth down five times and converted three of them. (A sixth fourth-down conversion attempt succeeded but was called back due to a holding penalty, at which point Lea elected to kick a field goal.) Combine that with going 9-of-21 on third down, and Vanderbilt converted the majority of the time they got to third down, which is how you succeed when you’re frequently behind the sticks.

Of course, Vanderbilt would have had to play essentially a perfect game to actually beat Ole Miss, and 2.83 points per scoring opportunity isn’t going to cut it. Vanderbilt settled for three field goals — on 4th and 7 at the Ole Miss 31, 4th and 13 at the Ole Miss 15, and on the final play of the first half — and they came up empty twice: once on a Mike Wright incompletion on 4th and 3 at the Ole Miss 15, and once on an interception near the goal line on their final drive.

Still, if you wanted a positive to build on going into 2022, this was it. (Maybe there will be more positives from the Tennessee game on Saturday?) It could end up being fool’s gold like the close call against Tennessee to end the 2014 season, but there seemed to be a very different approach from the coaching staff on Saturday night (see: going for it on fourth down six times) that could carry over. There’s a learning curve for a first-time head coach, and like Dave Aranda at Baylor, sometimes a switch just flips and a defensive coordinator becomes a head coach. As I noted on Twitter, Saturday night seemed very much like that.

Passing Stats

Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Mike Wright 22 44 50.00% 244 0 1 2 7 237 30.40% 5.2

Rushing Stats

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rocko Griffin 24 110 4.6 1 45.80%
Mike Wright 11 68 6.2 0 45.50%
Patrick Smith 6 34 5.7 0 16.70%
James Ziglor III 1 2 2 0 0.00%

There’s going to be a lot to say about how long it took Clark Lea to (I’m assuming) permanently go with Mike Wright as QB1. I will say that the midseason injury to Ken Seals effectively allowed the decision to be put off; since Seals couldn’t go for three games anyway. And prior to that, well, when would you have made the switch? Naming Seals the starter out of camp was certainly defensible given his performance in 2020; and after the ETSU game wouldn’t have been an ideal time for a switch given that Wright looked just as bad, if not worse. Seals looked fine against Colorado State, and while you could have argued for a switch after the Stanford game, sending Wright out for his first career start against Georgia would have been bad for a hundred reasons. And then Seals again looked fine against UConn, and the Florida game was his last before getting hurt. Then, starting him against Kentucky before going to Wright in the second half just let you confirm what Wright’s three starts against South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Missouri seemed to be telling you.

So, who knows what will happen going forward, though I would now lean toward Wright being the starter in 2022. Oh, yeah, and I’d be kind of excited about the running back room next season with Rocko Griffin, Patrick Smith, and a healthy Re’Mahn Davis.

Receiving Stats

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Success Rate
Chris Pierce 17 10 113 0 58.80% 6.6 11.3 7 41.20%
Cam Johnson 9 4 47 0 44.40% 5.2 11.8 2 22.20%
Rocko Griffin 4 2 18 0 50.00% 4.5 9 1 25.00%
Will Sheppard 4 2 13 0 50.00% 3.3 6.5 1 25.00%
Ben Bresnahan 3 1 22 0 33.30% 7.3 22 1 33.30%
Amir Abdur-Rahman 3 1 7 0 33.30% 2.3 7 0 0.00%
Gavin Schoenwald 2 1 12 0 50.00% 6 12 1 50.00%
Justin Ball 1 1 9 0 100.00% 9 9 1 100.00%

Chris Pierce is certainly getting his money’s worth on the way out. It’s kind of interesting to see how down the stretch, the receiving numbers are starting to look more like what we’d have expected going into the season, with Cam Johnson being a bigger factor than he was early in the season and Amir Abdur-Rahman, well, being involved in the passing game.

Defense

  • Top tacklers, as usual, were Anfernee Orji (9) and Ethan Barr (7). Orji also had a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and Barr had an interception. Both should return in 2022 and there’s a starting place for the 2022 defense.
  • And, there’s also De’Rickey Wright, who had half a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Notes

  • Michael Warden appeared in the participation report for the first time since going down with an injury two games into the season, though he didn’t get his starting spot back, presumably because Julian Hernandez has asserted enough production to keep it.
  • Another start, too, for Delfin Xavier Castillo. The offensive line hasn’t been great, but it should be returning four starters next season and that includes a true freshman, a true sophomore (right tackle Bradley Ashmore), and a redshirt sophomore (Hernandez.) Oh, yeah, and another sophomore, Ben Cox, who was the starter until he got hurt.
  • Redshirt watch: well, Castillo’s redshirt is officially burned, though it’s kind of hard to argue with burning a redshirt when the guy is starting. By my count, nine true freshmen have appeared in more than four games, while Marlen Sewell has played in exactly four, and hasn’t been seen in the last three games.

What’s Next

THEM to close the season, in Knoxville, at 2:45 PM CT on Saturday on the SEC Network.