2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 8 - Army at Vanderbilt
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Oct. 22 at Vanderbilt 44 … Army 21
CFN Analysis: Even when the Vandy passing game has something positive to get excited about, there are still problems. Jordan Rodgers threw for 186 yards with a touchdown, but he only completed 10-of-27 passes with two picks. However, he ran well with 96 yards and a score, and Zac Stacy was terrific running for 198 yards and three touchdowns as part of a 344-yard rushing day as a team. The defense kept Army to 270 rushing yards, with Chris Marve making 11 stops and the defensive front controlling the game from the start. Now the Commodores are just two wins away from a bowl, and there are winnable games left against Kentucky and Wake Forest. First, though, the offense has to try to keep the ground game going against Arkansas to keep the high-powered offense off the field.
Army will never win when it gets outgained on the ground. The Knights were beaten up by the Vanderbilt offensive line and they lost control from the start, only holding on to the ball for 25:45 and failing to hang on to the ball with too many missed third down conversions and three fumbles. The passing game wasn't even a thought completing 1-of-6 throws among three players, and the 270 yards on the ground weren't nearly enough. Punter Chris Boldt had a terrific day, and Geoffrey Bacon was all over the field making 13 tackles with a tackle for loss and a 70-yard pick six, but it was still a blowout loss. Fordham is up next to get back on track, but unless the ground game starts rolling again, it'll be tough to win three of the final four games to get to a bowl.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It may be time to start thinking of Jordan Rodgers as something other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' little brother.
The Vanderbilt quarterback gave the Commodores just what they've been looking for -- a little spark and a lot of consistency -- in his first start, a 44-21 win over Army on Saturday night. He rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown, threw for another and helped open up the field for Zac Stacy's career highs of 198 yards rushing and three scores in a 44-21 win over Army on Saturday night.
Coach James Franklin wasn't ready to announce the Commodores are fixed, though.
"I don't know if we have figured anything out yet," he said. "We're going to be doing that for a long time, I think. But we are getting better. We are starting to show somewhat of an identity."
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Commodores (4-3) and more importantly appeared to right an offense that was faltering after a fast start. It also kept them in the race for their first postseason appearance since 2008. Two more wins and they clinch bowl eligibility.
The prospects seem much brighter with Rodgers, a redshirt junior, under center. He kept the Black Knights (2-5) off balance all night. Though he completed just 10 of 27 passes, he kept Army's secondary on its heels with deep passes, including two completions of more than 40 yards. That opened things up for Stacy, whose rushing total was third most in a single game for Vanderbilt and it was the first three-touchdown game since 2007.
"We were blowing holes," Rodgers said. "We had a lot of gap schemes. Linemen just man on man trying to beat them and they did."
The Commodores finished with a season-high 530 yards and a handle on the possibilities to come.
"He brings that versatility of throwing and running the ball," Stacy said. "He is going to keep getting better and we are just going to build off that."
Vanderbilt's coaching staff utilized some deception to make the most of Rodgers' abilities. On some plays, he took the snap, set to pass, executed a pump fake, then pulled the ball down. That worked to perfection on Vanderbilt's first and third scores, runs of 1 yard by Stacy and 12 by Rodgers.
Rodgers also had nice timing. After Steelman fumbled a handoff on Army's first drive, Rodgers found Chris Boyd on a fly pattern for a 43-yard touchdown that made it 13-0.
Things eventually got so wide open, Franklin found himself in the unusual position of calling off the Commodores' onslaught.
"(Offensive line coach Herb Hand) wanted to put him back in to get the 200 yards and I just didn't think it was worth it," Franklin said. "We are not really focused on the statistics. We're focused on the wins and doing what's best for our team and our program."
It wasn't all offense, though. Vanderbilt built a 23-6 halftime lead by holding Army, the nation's top rushing team, to 104 yards on the ground in the first half. The Commodores also knocked out Trent Steelman, the Black Knights' most dangerous threat, with 2:20 left in the second quarter.
Army does not reveal the nature of injuries, but Steelman did not return and could not put weight on his left leg when two members of the team's training staff helped him off the field. His streak of 32 straight starts, a record for an Army quarterback, could be in danger when the Black Knights host Fordham next Saturday.
Army, which was averaging 361.3 yards rushing per game, struggled even with Steelman in the game and finished with 270 on the ground. Steelman's replacements, Max Jenkins and Angel Santiago, couldn't get much going either and the Cadets finished with just one pass completion.
"There's no quit in them," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "I told them after the game, 'Guys, you're playing hard enough, you're competing hard enough. You've got to play well. We've got to coach better, we've got to play better and good things will come.'"
Franklin's decision to refocus on the run appeared to be the right call. The Commodores opened 3-0 under the first-year coach but stumbled with three consecutive losses. Rodgers, a redshirt junior who missed last year and was limited in spring drills by a torn labrum, relieved Smith last week against Georgia and guided the Commodores to three scores while rushing for 80 yards.
His only real mistake against Army came in the fourth quarter when under pressure he threw an interception to Geoffrey Bacon, who returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 37-21. But Stacy sealed the win with second-half scoring runs of 8 and 55 yards.
The Commodores will have to keep it rolling if they hope to make the postseason. Though they need just two more wins to clinch bowl eligibility, three of their final five opponents have winning records.
"A lot of teams, when you lose three straight, you're going to have a hard time bouncing back," Franklin said. "It shows the character of our team. We're going to keep fighting and competing."
Army (2-4) at Vanderbilt (3-3) Oct. 22, 7:00, ESPNU
Here's The Deal … Vanderbilt gets a much needed week off from SEC play as they host the Black Knights this Saturday night. Vandy nearly pulled off the upset against Georgia last week, narrowly losing by a 33-28 score. The Commodores have done a very nice job in James Franklin's first season in charge, and have not been completely blown out by anyone, including the #2 ranked Crimson Tide. Army enters this game off a bye week, and the Black Knights will be look for their first road victory of the season. Last time out, they fought hard on the road at Miami of Ohio and almost walked away with the victory in a close 35-28 contest. Vanderbilt will be looking for revenge after losing to Army in overtime in their last matchup just two years ago.
Why Army Might Win: Army brings the No. 1 ranked rushing offense in the nation to Nashville to see if the Black Knights can upend the Commodores. Led by QB Trent Steelman and RB Raymond Maples who both average 89 yards per game, the rushing attack has been unstoppable so far this year. Vandy does have a good rush defense, allowing only 109 yards per game, but the Commodores have not only faced one team in Alabama that is proficient running the football. Army has already defeated Big Ten foe Northwestern earlier this season, so the Black Knights are not scared to compete against a BCS conference opponent.
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: The Commodores went toe-to-toe with SEC East rival Georgia last Saturday and could have easily emerged with the victory if just one or two more things went their way. The Vanderbilt defense leads the NCAA with 15 total interceptions. The only problem is that Army does not pass the ball, so this will limit the abilities of the Commodore secondary. But, if Army gets down early and is forced to pass in comeback mode, then Vandy will be more than ready to take advantage of the opportunity. One major task in stopping an option attack is to make stops behind the line of scrimmage. Vandy is 18th in the nation with 7.67 tackles for loss per game. If the Commodores can get into the backfield and disrupt the Army offense before it even gets going then they could make it very hard for the Black Knights to execute their game plan and avoid turnovers.
What To Watch Out For: Army LB Steve Erzinger & Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy. Erzinger ranks 12th in the nation with 10.67 tackles per game and also has 7.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks on the season. He is the leader of the Black Knights defense and Army will need him to play close to the line of scrimmage and contain the Commodore running game. Stacy, on the other hand, will be in charge of scooting past Erzinger. Stacy and the Vandy offense have really struggled this season, but he is a very capable running back and needs to increase his 63 yards per game average if opposing defenses are going to respect the run. Stacy also threw a pass on a trick play last week against Georgia that went for a touchdown, so Army's safeties will have to be wary of collapsing on the run too soon and letting receivers get behind them.
What Will Happen: These two teams are very evenly matched, and this game could certainly go either way. Turnovers will play a critical role in this ball game, and whichever team limits its mistakes will have the best chance of winning. Army has rushed for over 300 yards in each of its first six games, but the Commodore defense will be up to the challenge and win a low scoring contest in Nashville.
CFN Prediction: Vanderbilt 20 … Army 10
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Vanderbilt -10.5 O/U: 45
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