Oct. 9, 2009
Purchase Football Tickets | 2009 Gameday Central
An inside look at the storylines and players you need to know for Saturday's nonconference matchup with Army.
Setting the Stage--Storylines
*After a week when the Commodores had more penalty yards (74) than passing yards (69), more false starts (11) than pass completions (10), and more punting yards (276) than total offensive yards (240), all eyes will be on the Vanderbilt offense to see if they can rebound from another subpar showing against an SEC opponent. Though Army does not sport an SEC defense, they have enough playmakers to make Larry Smith and Co. pay if they're not sharp.
*This is a big game for Smith, who--in spite of flashing the potential Vanderbilt's coaching staff treasures--hasn't put together a complete performance since the opening week win over Western Carolina. Part of this has been due to the ramped injuries to the offense and lack of productivity out of the playmakers in the passing game, but at some point the redshirt sophomore is going to have to step up with a marquee performance that puts him on the map as a legitimate SEC quarterback.
*It will be interesting to see how the Vanderbilt defense stacks up against the triple option-running Black Knights, especially considering the potential depth problems up front. Redshirt senior defensive end Steven Stone and his injury replacement, junior Theron Kadri, will be out this week and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone has also been hobbled. Thus, redshirt sophomore Chris Marve and senior Patrick Benoist will be relied upon heavily to keep the Army ground game in front of them.
*Opposing rushing attacks have spelled considerable trouble for a Commodore defense that is having substantially more success against the pass than the run, giving up an average of 159.8 yards per game on the ground as opposed to 132.4 yards through the air (good enough for second in the SEC). Even so, Vanderbilt has been able to bend and not break too often (only giving up 15.8 ppg), a trend that must continue if the Commodores hope to take down Army.
The A-List--Noteworthy Army Players
Ali Villanueva, senior wide receiver
This is one guy who is hard to miss. In one of the more unique stories in college football this season, Army has decided to convert Villanueva, a former offensive lineman, to wide receiver because of his frame (an astonishing 6'10", 285 lbs.) and an uncanny ability to get behind defensive backs even with his size. Look for Army--when they choose to throw it--to look for Villanueva, who already has three receiving touchdowns this season.
Patrick Mealy, junior slot back
In this option-heavy offense, the 5'8", 203 lb. Mealy provides the burst, leading the team in rushing with 303 yards on the ground and an impressive 8.4 yards per carry on 36 attempts. If Vanderbilt can contain Mealy, they will have one less threat to deal with in pursuit of their third win of the season.
Donovan Travis, junior defensive back
Travis is a force in the Black Knight defensive backfield, already registering a team-high three interceptions (returning one for a touchdown) and ranking second on the team in total tackles (29). If there is a man for Smith to avoid in the Army secondary, it would be Travis.
Josh McNary, junior defensive end
With 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss thus far in the 2009 campaign, McNary has been wrecking havoc in opponents' backfields all season and looks to continue this trend against Vanderbilt's stable of capable backs. Look for the Vanderbilt offense to dial up counters and misdirection handoffs while occasionally doubling McNary to limit its impact of Saturday's outcome.