On an evening when the Commodore faithful looked like they were in for a treat against highly-ranked Georgia Tech (8-1, 5-1), Vanderbilt's (2-7, 0-5) fast start proved to be more of a trick on a brisk Halloween night in a sound 56-31 defeat at the hands of the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech's outstanding performance on the ground helped them run away from the Commodores down the stretch, with standout running back Jonathon Dwyer accounting for 186 of the Yellow Jackets' 404 rushing yards.
"I really think Georgia Tech has a really outstanding offensive football team," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "We would have to play very well to be able to stop them. We didn't help ourselves very much with turnovers and giving them short fields, but it would still be a tough duty to stop them. They've got some weapons and they do a great with their offense.
"They took it to us."
Though Vanderbilt produced some of the big plays that have been lacking in its offensive arsenal this season, the Commodores' three lost fumbles (one apiece by redshirt senior quarterback Mackenzi Adams, redshirt sophomore receiver Jamie Graham, and freshman running back Warren Norman) were turned into 21 points by Georgia Tech, allowing the Yellow Jackets to build a lead that proved insurmountable.
"We hung in there for a while," Johnson said. "But when you get to the second half and you have three turnovers like that...you're just asking to get beat. You can't do that."
Adams back in action: Quarterback Mackenzi Adams saw his first significant playing time of the season when redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Larry Smith was lost for the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Adams completed 12 of 22 passes for 152 yards, providing an impressive spark off the bench reminiscent of his other memorable appearances during his Vanderbilt career.
"(Smith's) hamstring was bad enough that he couldn't play," Johnson said. "Mackezni came in and did a good job just like we knew he would if he was needed. He was prepared and ready to go, (but) those turnovers hurt us in the second half. We didn't have a chance to keep going offensively."
Freshmen duo takes center stage: True freshmen and roommates Zac Stacy and Warren Norman provided the splash plays that kept Vanderbilt in this football game early on, as the dynamic pair accounted for all four of Vanderbilt's touchdowns in the first half alone. Stacy on touchdown runs of three and 62 yards, the latter tying up the contest heading into the locker room at halftime. Norman, meanwhile, caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Smith for Vanderbilt's first score of the evening and also registered his third kickoff return touchdown of the season. The kickoff return tied the freshman standout with Kentucky's Willie Gaunt (1980) for most single-season SEC kick return touchdowns and gave him Vanderbilt's single season record for kickoff return yards in a season, breaking D.J. Moore's record from last season.
"They just get better and better I think," Johnson said of his freshmen tandem. "They're just, overall, explosive. They're hard runners...We'll continue to get better on offense, (and) those tailbacks get better and better."