The Vanderbilt Commodores fell to South Carolina 34-27 on Saturday in Columbia, S.C. Prior to the game, VandyMania.com established three keys to a Commodore victory. We will now review those three keys.
1) GET PRESSURE ON BENTLEY - PASS
Vanderbilt's defense did get some pressure on Bentley. They limited him to about 40 yards less than his passing yards per game average prior to the game. The Commodores also picked up a sack on Bentley (by Dare Odeyingbo). While Vandy did get pressure on him, they also shot themselves in the foot with two targeting calls (although controversial, they all usually are). Those two targeting calls along with the unbelievable but correct unsportsmanlike conduct call after a USC punt might have cost Vanderbilt this game.
2) DORES AVOID SACKS - PASS
The Vandy blockers did a good job despite losing a couple of good blockers to injury during the game. Offensive lineman Devin Cochran and running backs Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame all left with injuries. The Commodores limited a pretty good Gamecock defense to not a single sack during the game. It's still crazy that Vandy gave up seven sacks at Ole Miss a couple weeks ago. That's seven more than Bama got on Vandy last month.
3) BLACK DEATH DEFENSE IS BACK - FAIL
I set "15" as the max number of points that Vandy could allow and it be considered the return of the Black Death Defense. The Gamecocks got 19 more points than that. Still, a long way to go. My guess is that the Black Death Defense is gone forever. What worried many Vandy observers prior to the season has come to pass. The loss of Zach Cunningham was devastating. No one has filled his shoes, not even a group of players has filled those shoes. I think too that the loss of Adam Butler was much more significant than many thought. Derek Mason has brought up "alignment" issues as the reason for defensive breakdowns over the past few games. I'm not sure why that keeps re-occuring. In 2014 when he took over the defense for the last game of the season against Tennessee, there were no alignment issues and he only had a week or so to prepare the defense. The D was much improved against UT and that carried over to the 2015 and 2016 seasons. I believe the problem is with personnel, not alignment breakdowns.
The season is still not a total loss. Yes, our dreams of a warm climate bowl are dashed, but any bowl Vandy goes to is a landmark event. The Dores have to go 1-0 this week and then repeat that a couple more times. Vandy's also a top candidate for an APR Bowl but we all prefer a bowl bid with at least six victories. I won't complain about an APR bowl though, if it comes to that. With all the cheating SEC scum Vandy's competed against over the years, I have no problem with getting a bowl because of academics.