FACTS & STATS: Site: Vanderbilt Stadium (39,790) — Nashville, Tennessee.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: ODU 2-2, Vanderbilt 2-2. Away Record: ODU
1-3, Vanderbilt 0-3. Neutral Record: ODU 0-0, Vanderbilt 0-1. Conference
Record: ODU 1-4, Vanderbilt 0-5. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling teams will step out of conference play to try
and get back on track, as the Vanderbilt Commodores welcome the Old Dominion
Monarchs to Vanderbilt Stadium.
ODU began its first season as a member of the FBS well with wins in three of
its first four games, but since then it has fallen flat with four straight
losses. The Monarchs most recently dropped a shootout at Western Kentucky last
Saturday, 66-51, to dip to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in Conference USA.
Vanderbilt has also experienced its fair share of growing pains in 2014 under
first-year head coach Derek Mason, as it is just 2-6 overall while going
winless in five SEC contests. After squeaking by FCS opponent Charleston
Southern at home on Oct. 11 (21-20), the Commodores went back to their losing
ways last weekend with a 24-14 setback at Missouri.
This matchup marks the first-ever meeting between the Monarchs and the
Commodores on the football field.
For all of its struggles this season, ODU actually boasts a very strong
offense that puts up 33.1 ppg and 444.9 ypg. Last week’s game was its most
impressive performance yet with 643 yards and seven touchdowns.
Taylor Heinicke had a career-best showing against WKU with 471 yards, three
touchdowns and two interceptions on 27-of-40 passing. He’s led the pass-heavy
attack by completing 63.2 percent of his throws for 2,286 yards, 21 touchdowns
and 10 interceptions.
Heinicke’s connection with Antonio Vaughan has been strong. After a 220-yard,
two-touchdown performance last week, Vaughan sits with 37 receptions, 653
yards and nine touchdowns. Zach Pascal (40 receptions, 563 yards, five TDs)
makes up the other half of one of C-USA’s best receiving duos.
Ray Lawry (74 carries, 551 yards) found the end zone four times against WKU to
up his season total to 11 scores. Gerard Johnson (92 carries, 461 yards, TD)
is also actively involved in the ground game.
While Monarch’s offense has lived up to their end of the bargain, the defense
has consistently let the team down by giving up 40.5 ppg. The unit was torched
by WKU to the tune of 66 points and 601 yards.
D.J. Simon is one of the few defensive standouts with 58 tackles, 7.0 TFL, a
sack and two fumble recoveries. Christian Bynum has a pair of interceptions
and Poncho Barnwell (6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) has been solid on the front line.
Vanderbilt has had difficulty generating offense this season, as it ranks last
in the SEC in both scoring (17.1 ppg) and yardage (266.6 ypg).
The Commodores have had a lack of identity under center, trying their luck
with four different signal callers who have combined for six touchdowns and 12
picks. Johnny McCrary got the call against Missouri and put together a decent
game (17-of-31, 196 yards, two TDs, INT). Patton Robinette, their most
effective quarterback (23-of-32, 240 yards, two TDs, zero INTs) has missed the
last four games with a concussion but is questionable to return this week.
Steven Scheu (25 receptions, 350 yards, TD) and C.J. Duncan (21 receptions,
351 yards, three TDs) have overcome the lackluster play of the carousel of
quarterbacks to put together solid seasons.
Ralph Webb is a true workhorse back, turning 138 carries into 594 yards and
two touchdowns, although he had nowhere to run last week (16 carries, 34
Vanderbilt’s defense has not performed very well either, allowing 32.8 ppg and
412.0 ypg, but at least the unit has shown improvement as the season has gone
on by yielding 24 points or fewer in three of the last four games.
Nigel Bowden has tallied a team-best 65 tackles, 21 more than the second-best
tackler Torren McGaster (44 tackles, 3.5 TFL, FF). Caleb Azubike is the top
pass rusher with 6.0 TFL and 4.0 sacks.
While ODU’s offense has the capability of putting up numbers, the points won’t
come as frequently this week on the road against an SEC opponent. It won’t be
easy for the Commodores to outscore the Monarchs, but expect the home team to
find a way to pull this on out late.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 28, Old Dominion 27