This game was a must win for Vanderbilt to have a successful season. They made a statement with their dominating performance that should give them some momentum heading into their Southeastern Conference opener with the South Carolina Gamecocks next Thursday.
The biggest question the Dores had heading into this game was who would step forward and make plays at quarterback. Chris Nickson answered those questions Thursday night. He was efficient through the air, 9 of 16 for 90 yards and a touchdown, but it was his performance on the ground, 20 carries for a career-high 166 yards and 2 touchdowns, that sealed the victory for Vandy. Nickson looked to be fully recovered from the injuries that hampered him for most of the 2007 season. Vanderbilt also got solid performances from Jared Hawkins, 12 carries for 53 yards, and Gaston Miller, 10 carries for 40 yards.
The Men in Black and Gold were also looking for a wide receiver to step up and fill the void left by Earl Bennett’s departure to the NFL and the injury to George Smith. Sean Walker proved he is up to the challenge. He had 2 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Walker got separation on another play, but did not get a catch because the ball was slightly overthrown by Nickson. He also had 2 carries for 26 yards.
D.J. Moore proved Thursday night that he is up to the task of playing offense, defense and special teams. In the first quarter alone he had a 91-yard punt return, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception. Moore did not have any offensive plays that showed up on the stat sheet, but he set up Walker’s 25 yard run because the defense followed him on the double reverse. "He is fantastic. He is in great shape and put in a lot of good work over the summer. I'm always asking him `are you tired do you need out?' and he just smiles and shakes his head," Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said after the game.
The Vandy defense was solid against the Redhawks as well. After a Jeff Jennings fumble on the opening drive of the game that gave the Redhawks great field position, the defense held them to just a field goal. The VU defense forced turnovers on two of the next three Redhawk drives, and held them to four third down conversions on fifteen attempts.
This win marks Vandy’s eighth win in their last nine games against out of conference opponents. Miami is not the toughest team they will face all season, but they are no pushover either. If they continue to get good play from Nickson, solid performances from the defense, and big plays from Moore, they could be well on their way to breaking the 25 season losing streak.