"Duke played very well on defense; they had a good plan. They thwarted everything we tried to do. Took away from our outside runs and our quick sweeps with our wide receivers. Took everything from us, they did a good job with that. We missed two field goals and those could have been the difference in the game. We have no way to explain it. We have to come back and come up with something else," Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said after the game.
Jared Hawkins had success on the ground in this game, but the Dores just did not him the ball enough. Hawkins finished the day with just 11 carries but gained 45 yards on those carries. The weakness of the Duke defense is their rush defense. The coaches should have given Hawkins more carries early in the game to take some pressure of Mackenzi Adams and the passing offense. Running Hawkins early also would have kept the Vandy defense from being on the field as much.
Adams was unable to get in a rhythm on Saturday. It was a little surprising that the coaches did not try and change things up by bringing Chris Nickson into the game for a series or two to see if he could spark the offense. Adams has played better than Nickson lately, but Adams really struggled in this game.
Adams finished the day 14 of 31 for 210 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Most of those 210 yards came on a 79 yard touchdown pass to Sean Walker. "We felt that we could go deep on them all day. I just wanted to make a play for the team. On that play, we had good protection and were able to get the score," Walker said.
The Commodores defense played fantastic on Saturday. They only allowed the Blue Devils 10 points despite the fact that they had 4 possessions that started in Vandy territory with two of those possessions starting inside the 20. The defense held strong and gave Vanderbilt a chance to win the game.
Duke scored all of their points off of Vanderbilt special teams mistakes. The Blue Devils only touchdown came after a 23 yard Brett Upson punt gave Duke the ball at their 40 yard line. Their field goal came off of a muffed punt by Jamie Graham where he should have called a fair catch at the 15 yard line. The Blue Devils also blocked a punt, but the Dores defense was able to hold and force Duke to miss a field goal.
It appears that the sixth win is a huge mental block for the Commodores to clear. They got off to a 5-0 start by not beating themselves. In the last 3 games, when facing the possibility of the sixth win, they have turned the ball over and not played well on special teams. It has been said before that this team is better than a lot of Vandy teams from the past two decades, but they still cannot overcome turnovers and special team miscues.
Coach Johnson has a lot of work to do between now and when Vanderbilt takes the field in two weeks against Florida. It will be really easy for morale to be down because this was a game that the Commodores should have won, but they will have to put it behind them because the season is not over with this loss.