On Campus in Nashville, Tenn. - For much of Vanderbilt's Spring Practice, the defense has enjoyed the upper hand. On Saturday, the trend continued for most of the team's featured Black and Gold Scrimmage staged in Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Commodore defense, playing aggressive and with confidence, kept the offense out of the end zone until the 10th possession of the Black and Gold Scrimmage. Eventually, the offense added two more short touchdown drives to close the session on a positive note.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson left Dudley Field pleased with the team's attitude and performance, especially considering the squad's thin numbers due to an assortment of injuries.
"Considering how thin we were coming in and how iffy the weather was, I was pleased to get the scrimmage in and have it go as well as it did," Coach Johnson said. "We didn't get a chance to play some guys because of injuries and couldn't substitute as much as we'd like, but I thought the kids' overall attitude was really good. Despite the lack of numbers, our guys played hard."
Four quarterbacks competing for the team's open starting role - Chris Nickson, Mackenzi Adams, Jared Funk and Larry Smith - faced full contact while each directed multiple drives. Nickson and Funk led scoring possessions, with Funk hitting four of six passes for 52 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another 13-yard score to conclude the session.
"I thought all of them did some good things. Chris and Mackenzi have improved due to being live (full contact) because it's forced them to look to make plays with their feet when things break down. Jared and Larry also have shown us a lot," Johnson said.
Some highlights from the Black & Gold Scrimmage follows:
Series 1 Stewart opened the scrimmage with a 4-yard tackle for loss. The offense, directed by Nickson, produced one first down on a 6-yard option rush by Jennings. The drive ended when the defense held on three straight rushes by Jennings.
Series 2 On first down, Funk and receiver Turner Wimberly connected on a 37-yard deep route, the longest offensive play of the scrimmage. After a 6-yard rush by Funk and a tackle for loss by linebacker Davis Flowers, the drive stalled with a Funk-to-Larry Simmons incompletion.
Series 3 Stewart also produced a huge play, sacking Mackenzi Adams for a 6-yard loss on first down. An Adams-to-Gaston Miller screen lost four yards on second down. On third down, Adams failed to connect with receiver Justin Wheeler.
Series 4 On first down, Elviro Tropeano made a diving interception of a deep pass by Adams.
Series 5 Adams produced a first down with runs of five and eight yards. After failing to connect with Wimberly, Adams hit Kennard Reeves for four yards. On third down, Adams gave up three yards short on an excellent play by Stone.
Series 6 Smith started the possession with a 12-yard scramble. After Reeves rushed for four yards, Smith threw for a first down, hitting Jake Bradford for 11 yards. After a false start, Smith threw 12 yards to Udom Umoh and 13 yards to Justin Green. The drive eventually ended in field goal range when the safety Duane Vaughn stopped Ryan van Rensburg on a third down rush.
Series 7 The offense went three and out, with Nickson missing three consecutive targets.
Series 8 Another three-play drive ended unsuccessfully for the offense. Stone's deflection of a Nickson pass on second down was a key play for the defense.
Series 9 Funk directed the Commodores' first offensive touchdown drive, which included a successful fourth-down carry by Jared Hawkins, who followed with consecutive carries of five and 18 yards. On first down from the 10-yard line, Funk connected with Miller, who dodged two defenders to reach the end zone.
Series 10 Adams hits Brandon Barden for a 5-yard pass, then hands off to Hawkins for seven yards and a first down. After two rushes by Hawkins gained seven yards, the drive ended when an incompletion.
Series 11 After moving to the 15-yard line on two rushes by Miller, the defense stiffens and forces a fourth down by holding Smith to a 5-yard gain on a third-and-long.
Series 12 Reeves runs effectively to open the drive, with a 12-yard rush. On second down, Reeves gains 13 yards after superb open-field blocks by tackle Thomas Welch and Nickson. After another 5-yard carry by Reeves and an incompletion, Nickson scores on a 2-yard rush.
Series 13Jermaine Doster starts the final possession with a 6-yard rush, followed by Funk's 3-yard gain. On third down, Funk ran nine yards on an option. Three plays later, Funk ended the drive by scrambling left for 13 yards into the end zone.