A ball-hawking defense, led by senior linebacker Archibald Barnes, controlled the final Vanderbilt scrimmage before the Commodores hold their featured Black and Gold Spring Game next weekend on campus.
Barnes, a nine-game starter last year, scored a touchdown on a 35-yard fumble recovery and contributed two other turnovers to pace a dominant defensive performance in the 54-play scrimmage.
More than 200 fans watched the Commodores perform in Vanderbilt Stadium, exactly one week before the squad returns to the venue for the Black and Gold Spring Game. Kickoff for the spring feature is 6 p.m., with a fireworks display immediately afterward. Admission is free.
"I thought the defense played very well today. They were consistent, they were aggressive, and they made plays," Head Coach James Franklin said. "They got the momentum and the offense couldn't get it back."
Senior tailback Zac Stacy provided the top offensive highlight, taking a handoff 23 yards for a touchdown on his only carry of the scrimmage. Without Stacy's services, the Commodore offense struggled, with its quarterback corps combining to complete 14 of 26 pass attempts. Freshman signal caller Patton Robinette enjoyed the most success, hitting 5-of-6 for 56 yards.
Barnes made his presence felt early. On consecutive possessions, Barnes recovered a fumble forced by junior defensive end Walker May inside the 10-yard line, then picked up an errant pitch by senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers and went 35 yards for a touchdown. Later in the scrimmage, Barnes ended a drive inside the 20-yard line by intercepting a pass tipped by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Conor Hart.
Some highlights from each possession follows:
Drive 1: Rodgers finds junior receiver Jordan Matthews for a quick first down, but the possession stalls with consecutive incompletions.
Drive 3: This two-play possession started with Rodgers and Boyd connecting for 26 yards, and ended with Barnes in the end zone with a touchdown.
Drive 4: After Rodgers and junior receiver Jonathan Krause were unable to hook up on a deep sideline route, the defense forced a punting situation when junior safety Steven Clarke pressured Rodgers to throw early.
Drive 5: Robinette twice found redshirt freshman receiver Jacquese Kirk and produced three first downs, but the defense stiffened to force another punt, with senior linebacker Robby Barbieri contributing a deflected pass.
Drive 6: Rodgers drove the offense to the 10-yard line before senior defensive tackle Colt Nichter's 7-yard sack. Nichter's play was followed by Barnes' interception. Earlier in the possession, Rodgers hit senior tight end Austin Monahan for 12 yards, Matthews for 19 yards, and redshirt freshman H-back Kris Kentera for eight yards.
Drive 7: Consecutive sacks by redshirt freshman end Jimmy Stewart and junior end Thad McHaney stopped a promising offensive possession. Carta-Samuels twice connected with sophomore tight end Dillon van der Wal for first downs.
Drive 8: After Barnes stopped redshirt freshman Josh Grady for a loss, Stacy went 23 yards for a score by eluding three defenders. It was Stacy's only carry.
Drive 9: Robinette found Kentera for 23 yards and a first down at the 3-yard line. But the offense was unable to score a touchdown, with redshirt freshman Andrew Williamson and sophomore tackle Vince Taylor making key tackles.
Drive 10: Junior running back Wesley Tate also scored on a 1-yard rush to cap a quick three-play goal line possession.
Drive 11: Sophomore defensive end Kyle Woestmann was solely responsible for producing a safety on a possession that began at the 5-yard line. After sacking Carta-Samuels, Woestmann was credited with a safety when officials threw an offensive holding flag in the end zone.