One of the Commodores' main concerns is the defense, in particular the run defense. Alabama ran for 331 yards against Western Carolina in the opener. Redshirt freshman Terry Grant ran for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns (2 over 20 yards) against the I-AA Catamounts. Alabama had three backs run for over 50 yards with Glen Coffee rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Roy Upchurch ran for 55 yards and a touchdown. Vanderbilt, at times, had trouble stopping Richmond's running attack. The defensive line will have to make more big plays. Steven Stone, after stepping up against Richmond, will have to step up once again. Expect Jonathan Goff to be a major factor in stopping Alabama's rushing game as well. If the Dores can stop the rushing game, they will likely win this game. The Commodores allowed Richmond TB Timothy Hightower to run for 73 yards, but they clamped down in the second half.
Expect Vanderbilt to come after Alabama with pressure on JP Wilson. With Bama running the ball far more times than passing it, if the Commodores can stop the run with blitzes they will force punts. If they can disrupt the timing of Wilson's air attack, Vanderbilt will have a good chance at beating the Crimson Tide. Wilson only threw for 189 yards on 17 completions. However, Wilson spread the ball around (12 receivers caught passes for the Tide). It will be difficult for Vanderbilt to cover all of the different receivers, so the best way to defend the Alabama passing offense is to get pressure on Wilson. This will be a key for Vanderbilt. Also, expect Alabama to blitz Vanderbilt. They blitzed twelve times against the Catamounts. Western Carolina completed their biggest plays of the game when Alabama blitzed. If Chris Nickson can handle Alabama's pressure, he can have another huge game, and an even bigger win.
For all of the hype about Vanderbilt's offensive line and running game, the expectations were not met. Many times Vanderbilt running backs could not gain yardage because of Richmond's D-line shooting into the backfield. The line performed well in passing downs and gave Nickson time to throw. However, they will need to increase the running game this week. The line got gradually better as the game went on, but they will have to start strong against the Tide.
It'll be interesting to see…
Steven Stone on the defensive line. With Alabama running the ball so often, Stone proved that he could step up if needed. He was often in the backfield pressuring Richmond QB Eric Ward, and was rewarded with a sack. He also played a major part in stopping Richmond's ground game in the second half. He will need to play well in order to stop Alabama's rushing attack.
Last Meeting: UA: 13 VU: 10 (2006 in Tuscaloosa)