Sunday, October 21, 2012

Commodores Down Auburn 17-13 as Zac Stacy Runs Into the Record Books

The lede from the Associated Press's story on the game nails in: "Luckily for Zac Stacy, he won't be remembered for his last carry on a record-setting day." With the Commodores leading 17-13, Stacy fumbled on the Auburn 31 yard-line with 2:24 remaining in the game, giving the Tigers one more chance to win.  Vanderbilt's defense held, Stacy was carried off the field-triumphantly after becoming the Commodoraes all-time leading rusher, and James Franklin's team picked up their 3rd win of the season. 


I'm not trying to be a negative Nancy, and it's always nice to get an SEC win, but Commodore fans have reason to temper their enthusiasm after yesterday.  Auburn should not have been in a position to win that game ... but they were, because Vanderbilt never put Auburn away.  This has become a common theme in the James Franklin era, and one that needs to stop if this program is going to take the "next step."  Thankfully, the Commodores were able to hold on this time. 

To me, this felt a lot like the Northwestern game.  Vanderbilt dominated but was unable to separate.  This time it didn't result in a loss, but it has to be something Coach Franklin and his staff are concerned about.  Certainly, I am. 

A Few Observations:
  • Zac Stacy is an elite running back: Perhaps that this is obvious, but I'll say it anyway. Zac's line yesterday was 167 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.  He averaged 6.3 yard-per-carry and added 2 catches for 24 yards.  He did lose a fumble late that, as discussed above, could have cost the Commodores the game.  Vanderbilt's offense needs to run through him.  
  • 4th Down Decision-Making (Part 1): The Commodores were 2 of 5 on 4th down yesterday, which isn't great.  Here's the rub, Vanderbilt was 2 for 2 on 4th down on their opening drive and 0 for 3 the rest of the way. Looking at the 3 failed attempts, I only disagree with the decision to go for it on 4th and 9 on from their own 43.  At the time of the attempt, Vanderbilt was up 7-0 and had all the momentum.  Beyond that, the design of the fake was terrible. Zac Stacy lined up as the punter and the ball was snapped to Wesley Tate.  Here's the problem. I saw Zac line up as the punter, which means the Tigers definitely saw the personnel and knew the fake was on.  As my very knowledge wife pointed out at the time: there was no reason to go for it. 4th and 8 is no easy pick up.  Combine that with the fact that you're on your own 43 in a game you're leading, and it makes the call that much more baffling.  I'll all for aggressive, but not for the sake of it. 
  • 4th Down Decision-Making (Part 2): Vanderbilt went for it again on 4th and 1 on the Auburn 48.  I actually thought this was the right thing to do. They put the ball in Zac's hands and he got stopped. It happens. 
  • 4th Down Decision-Making (Part 3): Up 17-13, with just over 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, James Franklin decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Auburn 31.  I thought this was the right call.  49 yards is probably outside Casey Spear's range and a punt is only going to net you (in all likelihood) 11 yards.  With all that said, the play-call was atrocious.  The coaching staff called a half-back option that resulted in Zac taking a 6 yard loss.  To me, this play-call is too clever by half.  If you're going for it, run such a better, higher-percentage play this.
  • Play-Action
  • : Why don't we run it? A high percentage of Vanderbilt's rushes were between the tackles.  Auburn had to stack the box to try and stop it, leaving single coverage without safety help on either Jordan Matthews or Chris Boyd.  As I said above, Vanderbilt's offense needs to run through Zac Stacy. But we've got talented receivers who can take advantage of one-on-one coverage.
  • Turnovers: Vanderbilt hasn't created that many. Through 7 games, Vanderbilt has only forced 5 turnovers, and hasn't had a takeaway in 11 quarters.  The Commodores are -4 in turnovers through their first 7 contests, they need to get on the plus side of that statistic in their final 5.  

Vanderbilt is 3-4 overall and 2-3 in conference.  With games against UMass, at Ole Miss, at Kentucky, Tennessee, and at Wake Forest left, there is reason to believe the Commodores will be bowling for the second straight season.  With the exception of the Ole Miss game, I am willing to bet that Vanderbilt is favored (or a pick'em) in every game the rest of the way.  Kentucky has shown signs of life in their last two losses and despite being bad, the Wildcats aren't a team the Commodores can look past (just ask Derek Dooley). UMass and Wake Forest aren't good.  Now that I've said that, it's a mortal lock that one or both of these teams trip us up.  Still, facts are facts.   

Vanderbilt is 3-4 overall and 2-3 in conference.  With games against UMass, at Ole Miss, at Kentucky, Tennessee, and at Wake Forest left, there is reason to believe the Commodores will be bowling for the second straight season.  With the exception of the Ole Miss game, I am willing to bet that Vanderbilt is favored (or a pick'em) in every game the rest of the way.  Kentucky has shown signs of life in their last two losses and despite being bad, the Wildcats aren't a team the Commodores can look past (just ask Derek Dooley). UMass and Wake Forest aren't good.  Now that I've said that, it's a mortal lock that one or both of these teams trip us up.  Still, facts are facts.   

Stanimal made a great point yesterday during the Braintrust's in-game email chain: how much different would this season feel if we'd beaten Northwestern? Answer: a ton.  We've certainly been negligent in keeping VSL current, but after losing to the Wildcats, and failing to knock-off either South Carolina or Florida (both doable if a handful of plays go different), I'll cop to feeling "blah" about this team, even if we all knew our second half schedule was more favorable.  
There is no excuse for Vanderbilt not to finish the season 6-6 or better.  The defense has been stout and the offense has shown glimmers of brilliance.  Special teams continues to be a question-mark.  More than anything, I'd like to see the Commodores put teams away when they have the chance.  

In Conclusion:
For those of you still with us, we appreciate it.  Real life seems to have gotten in the way of the blog.  The newest member of the O'Shea family is due any day and it turns out that being practicing attorneys doesn't leave a lot of time to pontificate about the Commodores.  Thankfully, our little Commodette allowed Mommy and Daddy to see the Auburn game, but I wouldn't put money on a cameo for UMass (the UT game is where things get interesting).

2 comments:

Bobby O'Shea said...

I know the font is crazy. I don't know why.

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