Slow starting Vandy downs UMass, 24-7
Jonathan Krause
Jonathan Krause

Posted Sep 21, 2013


FOXBOROUGH, Mass.— Vanderbilt’s weekend in New England got off to a disappointingly lackluster start. But the Commodores rallied in the second half for 14 unanswered points Saturday on the way to a 24-7 win over the University of Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.— Vanderbilt’s weekend in New England got off to a disappointingly lackluster start. But the Commodores rallied in the second half for 14 unanswered points Saturday on the way to a 24-7 win over the University of Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium.

Maybe it was the 11 a.m. CT start—or maybe it was the small crowd of 16,419 in the cavernous home of the NFL’s New England Patriots. Whatever the reason, the highly favored Commodores, who had focused all week on starting strong, came out sluggish against the Minutemen and led at halftime by a scant 10-7.

That score held up until 13:44 left in the fourth quarter, when Jordan Matthews scored on a highlight-reel pass reception. Matthews caught a desperation short pass from Austyn Carta-Samuels (deftly avoiding a sack), ran to his right and hurdled a defender to reach the end zone from 11 yards out.

“We didn’t have a track team in high school, so I probably got my hops from playing basketball,” said Matthews of his athletic move. “I’m taught to do whatever it takes to find the end zone.”

The score put Vandy up 17-7, and the offense put together another long drive in the fourth quarter to extend the final margin. Nevertheless, the winless Minutemen from the Mid-American Conference, made four-touchdown underdogs by the oddsmakers, managed to keep the game unnervingly close for three quarters.

A.J. Doyle, making his second ever college start, completed 20-of-28 passes against the Vandy defense, most for short yardage. UMass forced Vandy into two costly turnovers in the first half. Last season the ‘Dores had crushed the Minutemen 49-7 in Nashville.

But all the Commodores who spoke after the game focused on the importance of picking up a win, rather than dwelling on mistakes.

“I think sometimes we spend way too much time nitpicking about little things,” said Carta-Samuels, who competed 18-of-27 for 219 yards and a touchdown. “It was a win. We played well, especially in the second half, and we got it done.”

Vandy got on the board first when Carta-Samuels found Jonathan Krause streaking toward the end zone for a 42-yard bomb. But UMass answered on the ensuing possession with a 14-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game. Tajae Sharpe got the score on a 4-yard reception from Doyle.

The best the Vandy offense could manage the rest of the half was a 32-yard Carey Spear field goal with 1:55 left. UMass had a chance to tie it with a field goal attempt with no time left in the half, but the kick fell short.

Carta-Samuels was responsible for two turnovers in the first half—an interception on a long throw on the first possession, and a drive-killing fumble deep inside UMass territory.

“{Senior tackle] Wesley Johnson talked to us at halftime about being accountable to each other, playing for each other and doing our jobs,” said cornerback Andre Hal. “When a guy like Wesley talks to you, you listen.”

And eventually, the Commodores responded. The Commodore defense made some adjustments in the second half to stop UMass’s short passing game and held UMass to only 85 yards of offense and no points. The offense overcame the sluggish start and outgained the Minuteman offense 406 yards to 248. Vanderbilt improved to 2-2, while UMass fell to 0-4.

Jonathan Krause scored the first touchdown of his career and turned in the first 100-yard game of his career, hauling in 6 passes for 105 yards and a score.

Redshirt freshman Andrew Jelks got the first start of his career, and played the entire game in place of the injured Andrew Bridges. Larry Franklin also got his first start at linebacker in place of the injured Karl Butler.

The Commodores return home next Saturday to host Alabama-Birmingham. The game is set for a 6:30 pm kickoff on the FSN network.


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