Vanderbilt’s strong defensive performance was once again not enough as the Commodores (3-6, 1-4) fell 9-7 against No. 10 Florida (8-1, 6-1) on Saturday.
Vandy only gave up 258 total yards to a Florida team who is averaging nearly 370 yards per game.
Look, the defense isn’t the problem on West End, obviously. They are in the top-tier in the nation in almost every defensive category. Derek Mason has done an excellent job taking over as defensive coordinator, but it’s his offense that is having the trouble.
Vanderbilt is averaging 6.8 points per game in the last four games. Just think about that for a second. This SEC offense is only averaging 14.8 points a game, that’s second to last in the country! That means there are 126 more teams who put the ball in the end zone more than Andy Ludwig’s offense.
I wrote a few weeks ago that this offense needed to run through Ralph Webb, and it has. He is on pace to break his freshman record he set a year ago (907), he is currently at 811 with three games left. He had the only touchdown for the Commodores Saturday as he busted out a 74-yarder right before the half. Webb already has more touchdowns (5) than his freshman season and his 212 carries a season ago will most likely be broken in Saturday’s matchup against Kentucky (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network).
So, Webb is doing all he can to help his team, but it isn’t enough. The running back core is weak. The second leading rusher on the team is Junior Darrius Sims. Sims is a used to be cornerback/kick return specialist/wide receiver turned “we need your speed” running back. There is no true compliment to Webb. Quarterback Johnny McCrary is behind Webb in carries as well. So, when Johnny isn’t throwing interceptions or incompletions, he’s using his feet to gain three more yards.
The quarterback play is probably the thing that sticks out about Vanderbilt the most. It’s comical. Really.
A four-star dual threat quarterback from Ellenwood, Georgia, Johnny McCrary committed to Vanderbilt over Florida, Ohio St., Georgia, Florida State and Tennessee just to name a few. So, why is he so bad? Why does he make the quarterback position look so hard to play?
Through 16 games in his collegiate career, McCrary has thrown for 2,514 yards. The nations passing leader is Washington States Luke Falk. He’s thrown for 3,736 through nine games. He was a two-star. I think rating a high school player with stars is completely un-humanizing and means nothing. Who knows what they will go on to do in their college career? Ok, I’m done ranting now.
Vanderbilt needs to find a quarterback and fine one fast. This defense is too talented to keep putting their team in situations to win and be let down game after game. I don’t know if Andy Ludwig is the problem or that these quarterbacks just aren’t that good. I mean, in the last two games combined, Vanderbilt quarterbacks have been 8-for-34 with 74 yards. Yes, you read that right. McCrary threw three completions against Florida. He had nine yards before a last play pass for a gain of 21.
I mean, three completions in a game? That sounds like a Navy offense almost.
Mason tried to shake things up starting true freshman Kyle Shurmur, but that didn’t work out for him either. So, him and McCrary have been sharing snaps. Oh great, another quarterback controversy. Almost like last season, right? Well, not quite. Last years team was bad, really bad. This team has the ability to stay in games until the end, but never can finish. Again, you can thank the offense for that.
I get the receivers aren’t great, they aren’t even good, but you have to give them a chance. You can’t win a game in the SEC, or almost anywhere when your quarterback completes three passes. I’m just baffled by that still. Trent Sherfield broke out early in the season, but only has seven catches in the last four weeks. Have to get your number one involved.
The offense struggles to get in the red-zone too. They haven’t been inside the 20 in 29 possessions. That’s 125 plays. Their only touchdown in the last two weeks was on Webb’s run against Florida.
I hope they click this weekend when Kentucky comes to town. The Commodores haven’t played at home in two weeks. I expect a good crowd at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday. The defense should be able to build off of their performance in Gainesville when their take on another shaky quarterback in Patrick Towels. If Ludwig can find a way to keep his offense balanced and have McCrary complete balls, Vanderbilt should get their second SEC win of the season.