On a stormy night, the Vanderbilt Commodores let a golden opportunity for an upset bid slip right through their fingers. In spite of a myriad of errors--botched snaps, third down letdowns, dropped passes, etc.--the Commodores were still able to go toe-to-toe with the ninth ranked team in the nation until LSU pulled away with a backbreaking 14-yard run touchdown run by senior Keiland Williams with six minutes left in the game.
"They hurt us on the perimeter running the ball and we never did seem able to stop that consistently," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "I'm proud of the way our team hung in there until the end and battled."
Playing before an announced Tiger Stadium crowd of 91,566, Vanderbilt made their move in the fourth quarter by utilizing a running game that was so effective in their season debut against Western Carolina. After recording a safety that shifted the momentum in favor of the Commodores, the Vanderbilt offense established a promising rhythm on their next drive, rushing for 38 yards on seven team carries highlighted by redshirt junior running back Kennard Reeves's 18-yard gain. However, on third and seven from LSU's 23 yard line, redshirt sophomore quarterback Larry Smith's pass deflected off redshirt senior receiver Alex Washington and was intercepted by LSU sophomore cornerback Brandon Taylor.
"(The interception) hurt," Smith said. "We had a lot of momentum after the safety. We had good field position and we just couldn't capitalize. That changed the whole ballgame. If we score there, it's tied up."
In a battle of two of the SEC's most promising young quarterbacks, it was LSU's own sophomore sensation Jordan Jefferson who came out on top. Completing 20 of 29 passes for 138 yards, Jefferson was solid if unspectacular, methodically moving his offense down the field and helping LSU dominate time of possession. The Tigers held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
"(Jefferson) is really athletic and will be a good quarterback coming up," said sophomore cornerback Casey Hayward. "He throws the ball real good and his receivers always seem to get open."
In the end, though, it wasn't one play, player, or injury (especially the one sustained by redshirt sophomore right tackle James Williams) that Commodore players felt made the difference; it was their own miscues that left wondering Vanderbilt what might have been.
"We really shot ourselves in the foot," said redshirt senior defensive end Broderick Stewart. "Not to mention, people were already going down left and right, but you can't have penalties when you play a good team."
Game Ball: Keiland Williams
On a night where the running game proved the difference, Williams was the difference maker. Rushing for 72 yards on ten carries, the senior displayed excellent cutback ability and vision in slicing through a Vanderbilt defense that usually corrals opposing runners.
"In my opinion, that was the running back that Keiland Williams can be--very exclusive and explosive and running with power," said LSU head coach Les Miles. "I hope that continues."
With LSU holding the ball for the majority of the game, the sophomore corner was all over the field, registering a career-high 13 tackles (with four that went for a loss). Had Vanderbilt pulled off the upset, this game would have thrust Hayward into the spotlight. Either way, he proved Vanderbilt's secondary is in good hands even without do-it-all corner D.J. Moore.
Play of the Game: Taylor's interception
While Vanderbilt was stringing together a drive that could have made the game a lot more interesting, it was Taylor who slammed the door shut on a possible Commodore comeback. Three drives after his interception at LSU's 16 yard line, Williams put the game out of reach and Vanderbilt never sniffed the end zone again.