NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt capped its inaugural spring practice session under Head Coach James Franklin on Sunday as the Black team topped the Gold team 19-7 in the Black and Gold Spring Game at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Gold team got on the scoreboard first with a 15-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Charlie Goro to go up 7-0, but the Black team scored the game's final 19 points in the win that attracted an estimated crowd of 7,500.
"The big thing is that we stayed healthy," Franklin said. "With our depth issues and the way we practiced in spring, I wish we would have set more of a tempo in practice and gone harder and been more physical, but the reality is we stayed healthy. We didn't have any major injuries that lost guys for the season.
"Our need for offensive linemen and depth for the future is going to be very important to our success. Overall, I was impressed.I thought the coaches did a good job with coach [John] Donovan on one side and coach [Bob] Shoop on the other. From top to bottom I was pleased."
The Black team was led by the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Larry Smith and Jordan Matthews. Smith finished the game 16-of-26 passing for 233 yards, one touchdown pass, one receiving touchdown and one interception. The touchdown pass was to Matthews, who had a game-high 7 catches for 103 yards.
Despite Smith's prolific numbers, the Black team struggled to find consistency on offense in the early going. The team's first two scores came courtesy of Carey Spear's leg.
"I think it was hard to evaluate Larry Smith early on because the offensive line was having a difficult time with [Tim] Fugger and [Colt] Nichter," Franklin said. "As the game went on, he made some really big throws that we hope to see from him."
Spear answered the Gold team's lone touchdown with a 31-yard field goal with 4:51 to play in the first quarter and pulled the Black team to one, 7-6, when his 22-yard attempt was good with 7:42 to play in the first half.
Spear's second field goal came after a defensive stand by the Gold squad. A 49-yard catch by Jonathan Krause brought the Black team down to the 4-yard line, but the Gold team held. On third-and-goal defensive tackle Colt Nichter dove to break up Smith's would-be touchdown pass in the endzone.
With the clock ticking down to just 27 seconds to play in the first half, the Black team got its first touchdown of the game when Smith connected with Matthews from 23 yards out on fourth down. The score gave the Black team a 13-7 lead heading into the locker room.
After having regular timed possessions in the first half, the second half featured a running clock. The limited time sped up the second half, but also cut back on the scoring chances. The only score of the half came on the last play of the game -- which also proved to be the most exciting of the game.
The play calling on Sunday featured numerous Statue of Liberty plays and wide receiver reverses. The final play was a pass from running back Zac Stacy to quarterback Larry Smith, who leaped in the endzone for the 10-yard touchdown reception as time expired.
The game was mostly dictated by the defense from both squads. Taking advantage of a fatigued offensive line that played both ways, each team compiled eight sacks and one interception. Defensive tackle Colt Nichter compiled three stops for the Gold team, which included two sacks and two pass breakups. Linebacker Chase Garnham (Gold) led all players with eight tackles. For the Black squad, linebacker Andrew East had four tackles, including two sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann had a sack and an interception
A postgame fireworks show followed the game. After a cool day in Nashville on Saturday when the temperature was in the high 40s, Sunday proved to be excellent weather with the temperature in the low 70s for kickoff.
"First of all, I haven't been here very long, as you guys know, but I was very pleased with the whole organization of everything," Franklin said. "The weather - we planned that perfectly.The autograph session was very well attended.I got to interact with a lot of fans.We stayed healthy today. We had pretty good fan support.
"Like I said, I don't know what it was like in the past, but you look up at that one side of the stadium and it was pretty well attended."
Sunday's game was televised on a tape-delayed basis by CSS and will air at 8:30 p.m. on May 1 and at 2 p.m. on May 3.
The game also featured several honorary coaches, including Nashville sports anchors Hope Hines of WTVF-TV and Rudy Kalis and WSMV-TV, actress/singer Jana Kramer, and disc jockeys Kenny Smoov of 92Q and "Mac" McIntyre of 97.1 Classic Hits. Hines was the honorary head coach for the Black team, with Kalis guiding the Gold team.
Before the game, Vanderbilt's football team held a pregame autograph session. Children in attendance were invited onto the field before the game to play games with many of Vanderbilt's other varsity teams.