FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,606) — Lexington, Kentucky.
Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Vanderbilt 1-2, UK 2-0. Away Record:
Vanderbilt 0-0, UK 0-1. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-1, UK 0-0. Conference
Record: Vanderbilt 0-2, UK 0-1. Series Record: Series is tied, 41-41-4.
GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores and the Kentucky Wildcats will both try
for their first SEC victory of the season on Saturday afternoon when the
rivals square off at Commonwealth Stadium.
Vanderbilt is off to a slow start to a season, with its only win in four tries
coming in nail-biting fashion over Massachusetts at home on Sept. 13 (34-31).
The Commodores have dropped both of their SEC contests in the early going of
Derek Mason’s first year as head coach, losing to Ole Miss on Sept. 6 (41-3)
and falling to South Carolina last Saturday (48-34).
Kentucky raced out to a 2-0 start with wins over Tennessee-Martin (59-14) and
Ohio University (20-3) and in the process matched its win total from all of
last season (2-10). The Wildcats opened up SEC play on Sept. 13 and put
together a great fight at Florida, but ultimately fell on the wrong end of a
triple-overtime thriller, 36-30, to extend their SEC losing streak to 17
These teams have been remarkably well-matched during the course of their
rivalry, with the all-time series knotted up at 41-41-4. The Commodores have
had the upper hand in recent years, winning three straight meetings.
After scoring just 10 points over its first two games, the Vanderbilt offense
has picked things up in its last two contests with 61 points. Its total
offense (283.5 ypg) is still not up to par.
Although Patton Robinette (23-of-32, 240 yards, two TDs) earned the start at
quarterback last week, it didn’t take long for Mason to pull him in favor of
freshman Wade Freebeck, who completed 11-of-20 passes for 168 yards with a
touchdown and a pick. The Commodores have employed four different signal
callers this season, combining for six interceptions to just three scores.
Ralph Webb is one of the few reliable offensive performers. He’s earned more
than half the team’s carries, turning 77 attempts into 378 yards and a
The quarterback carousel has not done the receiving corps any favors. Steven
Scheu (12 receptions, 181 yards, TD) and C.J. Duncan (seven receptions, 138
yards, TD) are the top targets.
Although Mason is a defensive-minded head coach, the production on that side
of the ball has been poor so far. The unit has allowed just shy of 40 points
per game on 423.2 ypg, although it has forced and recovered five fumbles.
Nigel Brown anchors the unit with a team-high 27 tackles, while Ryan White has
20 tackles, 3.5 TFL and a forced fumble. Caleb Azubike is a strong pass-
rusher, tallying 5.0 TFL and 4.0 sacks.
After being one of the SEC’s lowest scoring teams over the past several years,
Kentucky has shown great improvement this season in racking up 36.3 ppg and
Patrick Towles has averaged more than 300 passing yards per game and has
accounted for six touchdowns, giving the team some much-needed stability under
center, but his three interceptions in the Florida game the last time out
Ryan Timmons is a solid possession receiver with 17 receptions for 212 yards,
while Garrett Johnson acts as a deep threat with nine catches for 179 yards
and two scores.
Braylon Heard has only 14 carries but still leads the team with 155 rushing
yards. Jojo Kemp (25 carries, 95 yards, TD) and Mikel Horton (17 carries, 90
yards, two TDs) are also employed in the backfield-by-committee.
The Wildcats also have a defensive-minded head coach in Mark Stoops, and his
unit has impressed in allowing 17.7 ppg and 384.3 ypg.
Khalid Henderson has posted a team-best 21 tackles and has recovered a pair of
fumbles, one for an 89-yard touchdown. A.J. Stamps (20 tackles, INT) and Fred
Tiller (19 tackles, INT, five passes defended) are also off to strong starts.
While Vanderbilt appears to be in for a long rebuilding year in its first
season with a new coaching staff, the Wildcats seem poised to climb out of
the cellar in the SEC Eastern Division. At home, expect the Wildcats to
register their first conference victory since 2011.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 23