Nov. 3, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Before Saturday, Vanderbilt hadn't shut out a Southeastern Conference opponent since 1968.
That streak was broken Saturday in a 40-0 road win against Kentucky in which the Commodores dominated on offense, defense and special teams.
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers completed 18 of 29 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and three different Commodores running backs rushed for scores against the overmatched Kentucky defense.
Vanderbilt's 40-point victory margin was its largest over the Wildcats in 96 years. In the teams' 85 meetings, only two of Vanderbilt's wins have been more lopsided: 45-0 in 1916, and 50-0 in 1897.
"(There are) some really positive things to build on here," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "I thought we played in the first half, really well. I thought we played clean, and the kids executed extremely well."
The Commodores (5-4, 3-3) scored touchdowns on four of their five first-half drives, and none of the scoring drives took more than 4 minutes, 19 seconds.
Rodgers led his team 71 yards on 11 plays begin the game, ending the drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. It was the fourth time this season has scored on its first drive of the game.
"It's huge to start out with points, regardless if it's a field goal or a touchdown," Rodgers said. "It is important to have a long drive and end it with a touchdown. It demoralizes the defense and gives us momentum. It is something we've been doing a lot better, especially at the beginning of the game."
Vanderbilt relied on its offense and Kentucky's special-teams miscues to start drives in good field position and move the ball quickly thereafter. Among Kentucky's biggest mistakes were two penalties for interfering with the catch on punts on consecutive second-quarter drives, both of which led to Vanderbilt touchdowns.
Kentucky (1-9, 0-7) missed an early scoring opportunity on a 16-play, 49-yard drive that consumed 7:10. After converting a fourth-down play at the Vanderbilt 28-yard line, the Wildcats were pushed back, and Craig McIntosh missed a 50-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-15.
The Wildcats only made it into the red zone once. In the third quarter, sophomore safety Ashely Lowery intercepted a Rodgers pass in Vanderbilt territory and returned it to the Commodores 25-yard line, and a personal foul on the return advanced Kentucky to the 12-yard line.
But the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.
Vanderbilt took a 27-0 halftime lead on the strength of its efficiency on third down. The Commodores converted eight 8 of 10 opportunities in the half, and one of the two failed conversions was converted on fourth down.
"We've had games like this, so I felt like I've been here before," Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "We didn't stop the run as well as we needed to, and we didn't stop the pass as well as we needed to. Some of it is certainly attributed to third downs, so it's kind of unfortunately the same song and dance this week. We've been making some progress in areas, but we did not show a great deal of improvement today."
In Franklin's two years at Vanderbilt, the Commodores have won twice and outscored the Wildcats 78-8. The win also marked Vanderbilt's first 40-point margin of victory in league play since a 48-7 win over LSU in 1948.
"I think the score can be deceiving a lot of times," Franklin said. "A lot of times you play a game, and the score looks like it's a close game and it really wasn't, or the score can be like it was today and you fought for every inch you got. We're just going to keep trying to get better."