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at Vanderbilt 24 … Connecticut 21

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Posted Sep 10, 2011


Week 2 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Connecticut at Vanderbilt

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 2 - UConn at Vanderbilt

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Sept. 10 at Vanderbilt 24 … Connecticut 21
CFN Analysis: Is Vandy really 2-0? Whomping Elon was no big deal, but the defense stepped up and came up with the big plays needed to get by Connecticut. The offensive line has been terrible, and there’s almost no passing offense to speak of, but the defense has been terrific and the effort is full-tile for a full sixty minutes. The Commodores didn’t allow a thing through the air and brought a great pass rush to screw up the timing of the Husky attack. Now the offense has to find a playmaker. Larry Smith is trying, but he only completed 12-of-24 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown with two picks, and he struggled against the UConn pass rush. The O isn’t going to get better against Ole Miss and South Carolina, but it needs to win the turnover battle like it’s been doing over the last two weeks.

The UConn defense was fine, and it forced three takeaways, but the offense couldn’t stop screwing up with a fumble and three Johnny McEntee interceptions. Lyle McCombs was able to pace the way against Vandy, but even with all the problems, there was still a chance to win the game late. The collapse after being up in the fourth quarter is a disaster considering the Huskies are supposed to easily run the ball, but the pass protection broke down late. Iowa State is coming off a big win over Iowa and is a tough out. A win will quickly right the ship with Buffalo and Western Michigan to follow.

(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Carey Spear kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:56 left, and the Vanderbilt Commodores rallied from 21-14 down in the fourth quarter and beat the Connecticut Huskies 24-21 Saturday night.

The victory gives new coach James Franklin a 2-0 start and Vanderbilt's first winning streak since 2008.

Tim Fugger had two of Vanderbilt's five sacks, and the Commodores forced four turnovers, all by Johnny McEntee. Senior Casey Hayward picked off a McEntee pass at midfield, then weaved his way back across the field to finish off a 50-yard return. His first career interception return for a TD tied it at 21 apiece with 6:45 left.

UConn (1-1) lost its second straight road opener despite the defense sacking Larry Smith seven times and forcing two turnovers.

The Huskies had one last chance to try and tie the game, but Rob Lohr sacked McEntee on third down. McEntee overthrew Isiah Moore on fourth down, giving the ball back to Vandy to run out the clock and start celebrating a rare winning start.

Franklin surprised his Commodores with black helmets after pregame warm-ups, putting them in all black. The Commodores hadn't used black helmets since 1990, and they came out fired up in what turned into a defensive slugfest with 12 combined sacks, two returns for TDs and a blocked punt for a TD.

UConn took the opening kickoff and rotated three players at quarterback. Lyle McCombs picked up where he left off last week, when he rushed for 141 yards, but he couldn't do it all. He ran 10 times for 74 yards in the first quarter only to finish with 118 yards on 27 carries. Dave Teggert kicked two field goals, and Byron Jones blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a TD.

Huskies linebacker Sio Moore had 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble that Yawin Smallwood picked up and returned 64 yards for a touchdown that put UConn up 21-14 after McEntee found Ryan Griffin for the 2-point conversion with 10:34 left.

UConn hit Smith repeatedly and even knocked him out of the game briefly. But the senior kept returning, and he threw for 140 yards and one TD. He also had only two turnovers as Vandy outgained UConn 259-193 in total offense.

Safety Kenny Ladler set up Vandy's first TD, diving in front of Kashif Moore to pick off a pass by McEntee at the Huskies 42. Vanderbilt went for the end zone on the next play with Smith finding Chris Boyd in stride for a 42-yard TD pass down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead with 5:54 left.

The Commodores drove 80 yards on their next drive with Smith connecting with John Cole for a 31-yard completion on third-and-11 at the Vandy 19. Freshman Jerron Seymour capped the drive running 40 yards for a TD even as UConn was flagged for having a 12th man on the field in a substitution penalty for a 14-3 lead at halftime.

UConn's best chance to score came in the third when Vandy linebacker Chris Marve knocked a McEntee pass away from Griffin at the back of the end zone.

The Huskies seemed to turn the game in the second half as they hit Smith so hard he left the game for a few plays, replaced by Jordan Rodgers. That helped back Vanderbilt up near its own goal line, and Jones blocked Richard Kent's punt and recovered it in the end zone for the touchdown that pulled UConn within 14-13 midway through the third quarter. It was the first blocked punt for a TD by the Huskies since 2002.

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Connecticut (1-0) at Vanderbilt (1-0) Sept. 10, 7:30

Here’s The Deal … Both Connecticut and Vanderbilt kicked off the eras of new head coaches with easy wins over FCS foes. Now, they face one another, with an eye toward a quick 2-0 start. The Huskies welcomed Paul Pasqualoni back to the Big East by disposing of Fordham, 35-3. More than anything else, it was a sigh of relief for a program that spent much of the offseason attempting to flesh out competitive battles on the two-deep. With Iowa State, Buffalo and Western Michigan upcoming, Connecticut feels it’s capable of building a head of steam before conference play begins.

The Commodores coasted in the debut of James Franklin, zipping past Elon, 45-14. It may not be much, but it does put the program halfway to last season’s win total. The Vandy holdovers from 2010 remember losing badly to the Huskies last Oct. 2, and would love to exact a little revenge for taking it on the chin in East Hartford.

Why Connecticut Might Win: The situation in the Huskies backfield? Not so bad after all. While Connecticut might employ different options at quarterback, mixing Scott McCummings athleticism with Johnny McEntee’s passing, the running game appears to be on solid footing. Redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs seized control of the feature back role, debuting with 141 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. He’ll be running behind a terrific veteran line capable of bullying the Commodores off the line of scrimmage. Vandy has major issues in run defense that Elon was unable to expose. Once the Huskies begin putting up points, the ‘Dores won’t have the playmakers to succeed in catch-up mode.

Why Vanderbilt Might Win: If nothing else, the Commodores possess a little more confidence than normal after authoring a rare lopsided victory. Larry Smith is a veteran behind center who can also make people miss outside the pocket. While the defense has holes, it also has quality at each level of the starting lineup. DT Rob Lohr sets the tone up front. LB Chris Marve is always around the ball. And CB Casey Hayward and S Sean Richardson both might wind up in the NFL someday. Vanderbilt will operate on defense with the knowledge that it can key on McCombs without having to pay the price from an inconsistent Connecticut passing game.

What To Watch Out For: If Vandy has any hopes of winning consecutive games for the first time since 2008, its offensive line will have to control the Connecticut front wall. The Huskies are loaded with the depth of talent that the Commodores are accustomed to seeing from other SEC teams. The challenge is that no one lineman can be double-teamed. On the outside, Trevardo Williams, Jesse Joseph and Ted Jennings are quick off the snap. On the inside, Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes are ferocious in their pursuit of the pocket. It’s a case of pick your poison for opposing offensive lines.

What Will Happen: Connecticut will get another solid effort from McCombs on offense, but the D is going to carry the team to a blue-collar victory. Vanderbilt not only lacks punch, but the execution needed to solve a quality opponent. Even with a new staff, headed by veteran coordinator Don Brown, Connecticut appears as feisty as ever. It’ll dominate the Commodores, especially on third downs, forcing a slew of punts and unproductive drives. It’ll be old-school, vanilla Huskies, winning with defense and the ground game.

CFN Prediction: Connecticut 27 … Vanderbilt 13  
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Vanderbilt -2   O/U: 44

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