Grading Week Two for Vanderbilt Football
A few days removed from the contest versus LSU, it's time to put a grade on what we witnessed Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium. While most of it wasn't very pretty, and there wasn't a moral victory to take from it, there were some positives to this one.
How good and bad were things for the Commodores against LSU? Let's get to it.
Ken Seals threw his second career touchdown pass in his second career start. He also tossed two more interceptions, bringing his season total to four. This shouldn't be a surprise, and might even be expected for a true freshman in career start number two.
Looking outside that stat, Seals handled things once again with poise and never seemed rattled even though he was under seemingly constant pressure and was forced to roll and throw the football away multiple times. All in all, it wasn't terrible, though the interceptions certainly bring down the grade, the other things under his control seemed adequate.
Ja'ven Marlowe showed up and showed out against LSU. No, his totals weren't headline-grabbing, but he was impactful and showed great burst and vision. Jamari Wakefield also had a solid game.
While the tandem won't likely be mentioned in the same breath with the great running back duos in SEC history, their combined 146 yards in this one were solid.
Cam Johnson and Ben Bresnahan each collected three receptions, with Johnson gaining 63 yards. One of his receptions earned 40 of those 63 yards, meaning his other two were suitable for 11.5 yards. A solid effort if you consider that he gained first down yardage each time he caught the football.
Besides Johnson, Chris Pierce managed one reception for 19 yards; Amir Abdur-Rahman collected one reception as well, but for only four yards.
Johnson's numbers aren't terrible, but this team needs more from their No.1 receiver. Simultaneously, the Tigers' pressure that forced some throw-aways played some part in this. The rest of this unit was almost non-existent.
Ben Bresnahan tallied three receptions for 31 yards, which equates to just over first down yardage with each catch. He was the only tight end to be targeted or have a reception.
Without grading the film for his blocking, Bresnahan gets a solid grade from us for a solid effort.
Seals was sacked three times and hurried another eight times on pass attempts by the Tigers. That means that on his 25 pass attempts, he completed 11 and was pressured on eight of the other 14 throws, or just over fifty percent.
He spent as much time running for his life as he did look downfield on many pass plays. However, the line did a solid job in run blocking and helped the backfield account for 183 yards on the ground and gave Seals enough protection to manage 113 passing yards.
Following week one, where this unit graded out as the best in the nation according to Pro Football Focus, the grade took a drastic drop in week two. It did the same here as well.
There's undoubtedly more to defensive line play than just sacks and hurries, but when you manage only two hurries and failed to sack the quarterback, you've not had a very good game. Such was the case against LSU for this group.
As a justification here, when you long snapper Scott Meyer is credited for as many tackles as Andre Mintze, you see the reason. Granted, Mintze wasn't alone here, as only Dayo Odeyingbo and Davieon Davis managed to play themselves into the top-10 leading tacklers for the Commodores in this one.
Another group with a solid grade, led by Dimitri Moore, tallied eight stops on the night. Alston and Anfernee Orji also each had solid games and were credited with four stops each.
This is the most challenging unit to grade because some players had outstanding games, but they were torched for 337 pass yards as a group.
Freshman safety Donovan Kaufman and Deshaun Jerkins were tackling machines, with Kaufman leading the entire team with ten hits. Jerkins added eight, and cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally added four to give the secondary three of the top five leading tacklers for the game.
That's a double-edged sword. It's great that those players made tackles, but it's a bad sign when your safeties are two of your three leading tacklers, and a corner falls in as the fifth leading tackler. That means LSU spent far too much time in the Commodores secondary.
Pierson Cooke missed on a short 22-yard field goal attempt on his only try of the game, but Harrison Smith was solid punting the ball for a 46.6-yard average.
Kaufman was great on kickoff returns, taking three for a total of 101 yards. His 58-yard return was one of the highlights of the game for the Commodores. Even with that big return, his other two were both over 20 yards, meaning the return game was a weapon.
While coaching was an easy grade last week, it's more challenging today. The Commodores were decided underdogs in this one, and it played out that way.
The offensive plan looked good, run the football and mix on the pass. However, as we've noted above, the execution wasn't enough to produce a better outcome.
The lack of pressure likely destroyed whatever game plan Ted Roof had going in on the defensive side.