By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There are few things more despised by defensive coordinators than points. Points, after all, are the enemy of a defense, and defensive coordinators are occupationally required to prevent them from coming into existence.
Perhaps that explained Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason’s appreciation for his team’s win against Alabama A&M: the final score -- 42-0 -- was difficult to ignore.
"That's always the goal,” Mason said. “The goose egg is what you shoot for, and they're tough to come by.”
Vanderbilt had no trouble controlling its home opener against Alabama A&M, an FCS school located just 120 miles away in Huntsville, Ala. The Commodores cruised to a 35-0 halftime lead and stifled the Bulldogs to just 104 total yards of offense on the night. As a result, Vanderbilt moved to 2-0 for the first time under Mason.
But it meant even more for the Dores to keep Alabama A&M off the scoreboard. The feat marked Vanderbilt’s first shutout since 2012, when it blanked Kentucky, 40-0. The 42-0 victory was also the Commodores’ most lopsided win since 2009, when they topped Western Carolina 45-0.
THE POINT AFTER: Breaking down Vanderbilt's win over Alabama A&M
That significance was news to several Dores.
“I didn’t know it was the first [shutout] since 2012,” safety Ryan White said, “but anytime you get a shutout, you’ve got to be proud of it.”
Indeed, Vanderbilt can be proud of where it sits in 2017. It begins a season 2-0 for the first time since 2011, with wins over Middle Tennessee and Alabama A&M. The Commodores allowed just six total points in those two victories. Though the road gets tougher in the coming weeks, Mason said he hopes his squad’s sizzling start pays off in the near future.
"You can't tell it from my face, but I'm excited,” Mason said. “It's what you're trying to do, but you have to keep your feet on the ground. Let's put our foot on the gas and go from here."
Next week, the Dores welcome unbeaten and No. 19 Kansas State to Vanderbilt Stadium. That matchup is the first of four consecutive games against ranked opponents, with Alabama, Florida and Georgia rounding out the challenging stretch. Vanderbilt has yet to face that kind of test through the season’s first two weeks. But the Dores feel they’ve shown plenty of potential in starting 2017 with two victories.
"We try to play at the same level every game,” said running back Khari Blasingame. “These two games prepared us pretty well."
Mason said the pomp and circumstance surrounding his team’s 2-0 start will last until midnight. Then, the Commodores must shift their focus to Kansas State. Past success is not indicative of future glory, particularly when the schedule toughens up for the Dores. But this team thinks it’s shown flashes of greatness with its start to 2017.
Shutout or not, Vanderbilt feels ready for what lies ahead.
“We stick to the grind,” linebacker Emmanuel Smith said. “It doesn’t really matter the number on the jersey or their ranking. They put their pants on just like we do. We’ll come in on Monday and set our focus on Kansas State.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics. Check out his story archive and follow him on Twitter here.