GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores attempt to climb back to .500 on
Saturday afternoon when they take on the Massachusetts Minutemen in a non-
conference clash at Gillette Stadium.
Vanderbilt was able to put a notch the win column on Sept. 7 with a 38-3
triumph over Austin Peay, but a pair of losses in the SEC were sandwiched in
between. The Commodores lost in heart-breaking fashion to Ole Miss in the
opener on Aug. 29 (39-35), and then last week they devised a late rally at
South Carolina, but fell short (35-25).
UMass has had little to get excited about early in the 2013 campaign. Last
week, the team suffered a setback in a difficult road contest at Kansas State,
37-7. The Minutemen also fell at nationally-ranked Wisconsin in their opener,
45-0, and in their most winnable game so far at home versus FCS foe Maine on
Sept. 7, they disappointed by dropping a 24-14 decision.
The Commodores won the only previous meeting between the squads, 49-7, on Oct.
Vanderbilt's offense is off to a strong start in terms of scoring (32.7 ppg),
but its modest yardage total (385.3 ypg) has been due to a lack of consistency
as it's converted just 35 percent of its third-down attempts and committed
Austyn Carta-Samuels' first season as the full-time starter has gotten off to
an up-and-down start. On the positive side, he's thrown for 675 yards and four
touchdowns while rushing in three more scores. On the other hand, he's
completed less than 59 percent of his passes and has thrown three
Carta-Samuels has the luxury of throwing to one of the nation's best receivers
in Jordan Matthews, who leads the SEC in both receptions (24) and yards (400)
while reeling in two touchdowns. After posting 106 yards in last week's loss
to South Carolina, Matthews has topped 100 yards in all three games this
season, and has crossed the century mark 13 times in his career.
The Commodores employ a running back by committee, with Jerron Seymour (128
yards), Wesley Tate (127 yards) and Brian Kimbrow (104 yards) splitting the
work load. Seymour and Tate have scored three touchdowns apiece.
While the offense has found ways to compete, the defense has disappointed. A
year removed from allowing just 18.7 ppg, the Commodores are yielding 25.7
Kenny Ladler leads the way with 24 tackles, while Kyle Woestmann and Jimmy
Stewart have two sacks apiece. In the secondary, Steven Clarke has the club's
lone interception, and Andre Hal and Darreon Herring have combined for eight
Of 123 qualifying FBS teams, UMass ranks last in scoring offense (7.0 ppg),
and its yardage output (262.0 ypg) is also one of the nation's worst.
A.J. Doyle was mediocre in the loss to Kansas State (21-of-31, 186 yards), and
he threw a pair of interceptions and went without a touchdown. He has
completed 60 percent of his passes this season for 287 yards, outperforming
his competition Mike Wegzyn (.458 completions, 212 yards, TD, two INTs).
Stacey Bedell has carried the ball 58 times, but has only amassed 209 yards
(3.6 ypc). He also has the team's only rushing score.
Tajae Sharpe is clearly the top option in the passing game, tallying a team-
best 21 receptions for 196 yards and a score. The only other UMass receiver
with double-digit catches is Derek Beck (11 receptions, 72 yards).
The Minutemen have performed poorly on defense as well, giving up 35.3 ppg and
Ed Saint-Vil is the team's leading tackler with 31 stops, and he has forced a
fumble as well. Devin Brown, Jovan Santos-Knox and Antonie Tharpe all have
interceptions, while Joe Colton has the team's only sack.
While Vanderbilt's start has surely been disappointing, it can hang its hat on
the fact that both of its loss have come against Top-25 foes. The Commodores
will be ready to feast on a UMass squad that hasn't shown much fight this