Sep 8, 2013
It wasn't always pretty, but Vanderbilt exited Vanderbilt Stadium exactly the way it intended to when the week began: with a win.
The Commodores evened their record at 1-1 with a 38-3 rout of Austin Peay, and now turn their attention to South Carolina, where the Dores will travel next Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN).
Last week, eight FBS opponents were knocked off by FCS foes, and James Franklin used those losses as motivation throughout the week. Needless to say, it worked as the Commodores mostly dominated the Govs by breaking open the game with 35 points in the second quarter.
Vanderbilt lit up the scoreboard in the second quarter, but pretty much gave the scoreboard operator the night off the rest of the way.
"Overall, I thought we started slow and I thought we finished slow," James Franklin said. "We won the game and (are) happy with the win. We are going to enjoy wins around here, but I was honest with the team as well, and I didn't think we played great."
But Vanderbilt didn't need to play great to dominate the overmatched Govs, who struggled to get anything going on offense.
After one quarter, Vanderbilt held a 3-0 lead and struggled moving the ball. So what changed in the second quarter?
"I think it was really just execution," Franklin explained. "I didn't think our pad level was very good in the first quarter on the offensive line and at tight end. We didn't really do anything a whole lot different, we just began executing a little bit more."
While the game ended in a blowout, a lot of work remains before the Commodores get back to conference play next week.
"It was good enough for Austin Peay and that's really our focus and our concern," Franklin said of Saturday's effort. "Next week, we will worry about what is good enough for South Carolina.
"Is there a lot of learning on that tape and a lot of things that we've got to get cleaned up? No doubt about it. Like I mentioned last week, I'd rather learn and grow as a team and organization with a win rather than the other way."
One week after surrendering 39 points to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt's defense responded in a big way against Austin Peay Saturday. The Commodores allowed just three points on 139 yards of total offense and most of the yardage came in the second half when Vanderbilt shuffled players in and out of the lineup.
While building a 38-0 halftime lead, Vanderbilt held Austin Peay to just 25 yards on 24 plays in the opening frame. Most impressively, Austin Peay did not register a first down until the third quarter.
Vanderbilt held the Govs to just 54 yards passing and did not cross midfield until their second drive of the third quarter.
"I think our defensive line, our (defensive backs) and everybody up front just played a tremendous first half, but we can do better though," linebacker Darreon Herring said. "Especially coming out for the second half, we can do much better than we came out and did."
The defensive effort came without senior linebacker Chase Garnham, who was out due to injury. Filling in for Garnham at middle linebacker was Jacob Sealand, who made his first start, and Harding Harper.
Matthews Over 100 Yards ... Again
For the second straight week, wide receiver Jordan Matthews topped 100 yards receiving ... in the first half. Matthews hauled in six passes for 111 yards and one touchdown in the first half and did not play after halftime.
It was the fifth time in his last six games that he has finished with 100-plus receiving yards. The six-game span dates back to the Ole Miss game in 2012. During that time, Matthews has been nearly unstoppable, averaging 127 yards and 8.2 receptions per game.
The 100-yard game was the 12th of Matthews' career - a school record. He entered the game tied with former Commodore wideout Dan Stricker.
Matthews has now caught a touchdown in seven straight games and has 20 total touchdowns in his career, including 19 through the air. His receiving touchdown total currently ranks fourth in school school history and he is just two behind Stricker (21) for the most in school history.
Cunningham Has Career Night
Freshman wide receiver Jordan Cunningham had a very quiet debut against Ole Miss, finishing without a catch. His encore was just the opposite.
Cunningham led all Vanderbilt receivers against Austin Peay with seven catches for 67 yards, including a number of catches in heavy traffic.
Cunningham's play not only impressed the crowd, but also Coach Franklin who spoke highly of Cunningham without being prompted.
"I think a bright spot was Jordan Cunningham," Franklin told the media. "He had seven catches for 67 yards; made some tough catches, played with confidence. I was very proud of him."
Cunningham has begun to solidify himself as Austyn Carta-Samuels' third receiving option behind Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause. Krause had a big night as well, finishing with two catches for 60 yards, including a 56-yard catch in the second quarter.
In addition to Cunningham, fellow freshman Latevius Rayford hauled in his first catch of his career.
After a slow first quarter that featured just three points, Vanderbilt exploded in the second quarter with 35 points. The 38 points in the half were the most by the Commodores since 1999 when Vanderbilt also scored 38 in the first half against The Citadel.
Austyn Carta-Samuels accounted for three of the touchdowns in the quarter, including two on the ground. Brian Kimbrow scored the game's first touchdown on the ground. Jerron Seymour added another rushing touchdown and Jordan Matthews hauled in a pass from Carta-Samuels.
The 38-point output by the Commodores came after scoring 35 points against Ole Miss. The Commodores are averaging 36.5 points per game in 2013 and are now averaging 40.4 points per game during their last eight games dating back to a 49-7 win against UMass on Oct. 29, 2012.
During those eight games, Vanderbilt's fewest points scored were 27 at Ole Miss in 2012.
Backup Quarterbacks See Action
Because of the lopsided score, a number of reserve players were able to see action Saturday. Most notably, backup quarterbacks Josh Grady and Patton Robinette saw their first action under center.
After jumping out to a 38-0 lead at the half, backup quarterback Josh Grady was inserted into the game to open the second half. It was Grady's first action at quarterback after playing wide receiver last year. Grady finished 1-of-2 passing for nine yards. Grady also tossed an interception.
To open the fourth quarter, Patton Robinette was inserted into the game for his first action after redshirting last year. Robinette was 4-of-5 passing for 41 yards, including a 24-yard pass to Latevius Rayford. Robinette also did some damage with his legs, gaining 20 yards on three carries.
"I thought both of them did some nice things," Franklin said. I think Patton showed that he is not just a drop-back passer, he can run as well. I think the fact that we were able to get those two guys reps is a positive."
Although Grady was the first reserve quarterback to see action, Franklin stated after the game that neither quarterback has secured their spot as Carta-Samuels' top backup.
"There really is not a No. 2 and a No. 3 at the quarterback position. It's a weekly competition and I don't think anybody has established themselves as the No. 2 or the No. 3 at this point."