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Alabama 55, Vanderbilt 3: Well, it was better than the last time we faced them

This wasn’t a 2017-level embarrassment, at least.

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Box score

Five Factors Vanderbilt Alabama
Five Factors Vanderbilt Alabama
Plays 52 77
Total Yards 129 628
Yards Per Play 2.48 8.16
Rushing Attempts 21 34
Rushing Yards 47 228
Rushing YPP 2.24 6.71
Passing Attempts 31 43
Passing Yards 82 400
Passing YPP 2.65 9.30
Rushing Success Rate 28.57% 44.12%
Passing Success Rate 29.03% 58.14%
Success Rate 28.85% 51.95%
Avg. Field Position 23 32.9
PP40 3.00 5.50
Turnovers 0 1

Tennessean: Vanderbilt football dominated by Alabama in SEC opener Alabama creates big plays against Vanderbilt, wins 55-3

Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football QB Bryce Young torches Vanderbilt for 300 passing yards in first half Vanderbilt Falls at No. 2 Alabama No. 2 Alabama Football Dominant on Both Sides of Ball in a 55-3 Victory over Vanderbilt

The Vanderbilt Hustler: Commodore Brunch Week Four; Humbled by the Tide

The Crimson White: Alabama defensive performance keeps Vanderbilt’s anchors weighed down

Roll Bama Roll: Initial impressions from the Vanderbilt game

WSMV: Young, No. 2 Alabama top Vanderbilt 55-3 in SEC opener

I mean, if that box score looks bad, you should see the last time we played Alabama. Or last year’s game against Georgia.

I’m not going to pretend that Saturday’s game is anything that we should be happy about; Alabama beat us badly in every phase of the game. But, well, this wasn’t anywhere close to what’s happened the last couple of times that we’ve faced an absolute buzzsaw of a team. (2019 LSU did pretty much whatever they wanted on offense, but they were never the defensive juggernaut that Alabama and Georgia typically are.) This was more in the realm of “normal college football blowout” than the pathetic showings seen above.

Again, not that we should be happy about getting blown out, but I can see a difference here. Is that what you want to call “progress”? Sure, it’s something. Vanderbilt has gone from being one of the worst teams in FBS in 2021 to a standard bottom-tier Power 5 team in 2022, and that counts as progress. This was never going to be a quick turnaround (and before you point to what Lance Leipold is doing at Kansas, Clark Lea doesn’t have the luxury of an admissions office that will let him do whatever the hell he wants in the transfer portal), but we’ve seen signs of progress in all five games this season. You just have to squint really hard to see it in a 55-3 beatdown at the hands of Alabama.

Individual Stats

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
A.J. Swann 13 26 50.00% 115 0 0 5 33 82 29.03% 2.6

This was really the first time all season that sacks have been a problem; A.J. Swann got sacked five times, with Will Anderson responsible for two and a half sacks.

I honestly think Vanderbilt’s offensive line has improved from last season. But it hasn’t improved to the point of keeping Alabama’s defense out of the backfield. Worth noting, too, that Vanderbilt was missing both of its normal starting guards, with redshirt freshman Gage Pitchford drawing his first career start ahead of Ben Cox (who played, according to the participation report, but didn’t start), and Delfin Xavier Castillo out for the second consecutive week.

Rushing stats

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Ray Davis 10 16 1.6 0 30.00%
Patrick Smith 5 11 2.2 0 20.00%
Rocko Griffin 3 19 6.333333333 0 66.67%
A.J. Swann 1 0 0 0 0.00%
Jayden McGowan 1 0 0 0 0.00%

Anyway. Moving on...

Receiving stats

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Jayden McGowan 8 6 32 0 75.00% 4.0 5.3 37.50%
Will Sheppard 7 3 52 0 42.86% 7.4 17.3 42.86%
Gavin Schoenwald 4 2 20 0 50.00% 5.0 10.0 50.00%
Ray Davis 4 1 4 0 25.00% 1.0 4.0 0.00%
Gamarion Carter 1 1 7 0 100.00% 7.0 7.0 100.00%
Devin Boddie 1 0 0 0 0.00% 0.0 #DIV/0! 0.00%
Ben Bresnahan 1 0 0 0 0.00% 0.0 #DIV/0! 0.00%

Clearly, A.J. Swann wasn’t getting a ton of time to throw, which probably gets you most of the way to explaining why Jayden McGowan was targeted more than Will Sheppard here. Gamarion Carter, apparently suspended along with Patrick Smith and a couple of others for the first four games, got his first action, and Gavin Schoenwald is somehow the surest tight end on the team in 2022 — something that I absolutely would not have predicted in 2019 or 2020.


Good games for Anfernee Orji (who had 13 total tackles) and C.J. Taylor (who had nine total tackles and nearly had a pick six if Bryce Young had just thrown it a couple inches lower.) Still, when one of the most notable performances on defense is the punter (Matt Hayball had three tackles and a forced fumble), it’s not a great night for the defense.

Participation Report

Nothing super notable here; in addition to Gage Pitchford drawing his first career start as mentioned above, C.J. Taylor got his first start on the defense — which, really, in his case it feels like more of an accident that he hadn’t drawn a start before.

Anyway, last week I noted that seven true freshmen had played in all four games and six of those seven played this week, with only Chase Gillespie (whose early-season playing time was mostly a result of injuries and suspensions at his position) not appearing in this game. Jeffrey Ugochukwu and A.J. Swann both played in their fourth game yesterday, and Bradley Mann and Yilanan Outtara played in their third.

With all that said — I can certainly distinguish this from the Derek Mason strategy of burning redshirts for no particular reason, because basically all of these guys are getting real playing time and aren’t just using a year of eligibility to play on special teams.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt gets the first of two bye weeks, followed by an October 8 home game against Ole Miss — game time and television coverage TBA.