Sunday, September 13, 2009

Initial Thoughts on the LSU Game

Last night's game was extremely difficult to watch. Not because Vanderbilt got out-played (they didn't), but because they shot themselves in the foot time and time again. Keep these numbers in mind: 7 for 52, 3, and at least 5.

7 for 52 represents Vanderbilt's penalties and the the yards we gave LSU as a result. As Jeff Lockridge observes in his article in today's Tennessean, 2 of those penalties were 15-yard face-masks that came on LSU's first touchdown scoring drive in the 1st half. Worse, the second face-mask against Ryan Hamilton (who spent the second half watching from the sidelines with his arm in a sling), came after Vanderbilt had held the Tigers on 3rd down and were poised to force a field goal. That gets me to my next number: 3. Vanderbilt's penalties resulted in 3 LSU first-downs. None bigger than Hamilton's completely incidental contact trying to bring down an LSU receiver after the catch which extended the drive and ultimately led to 6. Vanderbilt is historically the least penalized team in the conference. Yet last night, LSU was the more disciplined team, getting whistled for just 5 penalties for 28 yards (2 less than Vanderbilt gave up on 1 drive). Let's not forget Vanderbilt's false-start penalty on 4th and 3 that turned what would have been a long field goal into a punt early in the game.

The final number is at least 5. Seamus and I harped on this all night (as did the ESPNU crew): Vanderbilt's lack of a go-to #1 receiver is clearly this team's biggest weakness. That doesn't have to be such a problem if you can have a solid receiving corps by committee. That was not the case last night. "At least 5" refers to the number of dropped passed by Vanderbilt receivers. It's entirely possible that that number is low. Regardless, Vanderbilt (time and again) had drives stalled and scoring opportunities squandered by receivers being unable to catch the ball. No culprit was worse than red-shirt senior Alex Washington, who had 2 critical drops, including a perfectly thrown ball that went through his hands, off his body, and into the arms of LSU's Brandon Taylor for an interception on LSU's 20. At the time of the interception, Vanderbilt was down 7 and driving. Even if they don't put it in the end-zone, it keeps the pressure on the Tigers. If they do score a TD, it's a tie game heading into the 4th quarter. Alex wasn't the only culprit: the sure handed tight ends Austin Monahan and Brandon Barden each dropped at least one ball, as did John Cole. Still, as a senior, Alex has to step up and make plays and frankly, he did not do that last night.

There were certainly bright stops. Zac Stacy continues to wow Commodore fans with his play. The true freshman gained 90 yards on 20 carries; at least 15 of those yards came from sheer force of will in getting an extra 3 or 4 yards after he had already been caught by an LSU defensive player (or players). The defense was also extremely impressive. They forced 3 consecutive 3 and outs in the 3rd and 4th quarters to keep Vanderbilt in the game and give the offense a chance to tie it up. Brett clearly shook off a rocky opening game and looked like the Upson of old punting the ball. Finally, I thought Larry Smith looked very good in the pocket. His 11-24-1 line is deceiving in light of all the drops. If all 5 of those catchable balls are hauled in, he's got well over 160 yards, has a completion percentage of 66%, and doesn't have a turnover.

Now, for more bad news: starting right tackle James Williams was carted off the field in the 3rd quarter after breaking his ankle. I'd be surprised if we saw him the rest of this season. As mentioned above, senior safety Ryan Hamilton spent the second half watching from the sidelines with his arm in a sling. Right now, we don't know what his prognosis is, but when we do, we'll be sure to let you know. For more on last night's game, check out VUCommodores's post-game central.

Thanks to everyone for tuning into the live-blog. It took us some time, but thanks to AD, we finally got some technology to make it a little more interactive.

Mississippi State hung with Auburn for a while before succumbing 49-24 (certainly beats the hell out of last year's 3-2 snoozer). That's who we've got next week, and who the Commodores will certainly turn their attention to right away. As for me, I'm trading the black and gold of my Commodores for the forest green of my Jets (just for the day) and headed to a local watering hole to see if Rex Ryan and Matt Sanchez can make me believe again.

Weigh in VSL Nation, what did you think of last night's game and the rest of the SEC's games? Outside of Florida, I really think the conference is wide-open this year.

Bobby, OUT


Anonymous said...

the wide receivers are pathetic. we cannot even throw the ball downfield anymore, our only completed throws have been short check downs. our defense, running game, and Larry Smith looked great. I only counted 1 completion to a WR, and he caught it and fell. I'm almost thinking about going to CBJ and asking if I can play wideout for him, and I've never played football in my life

Tom M said...

You forgot to mention that Chris Marve is a beast.

Despite the tough loss, it brightens my mood to know a) we won a bowl last season b) Tennessee lost