The reasons might be many and possibly complex, but the problem is simple.
Vanderbilt’s football team has not scored near enough points in its first three Southeastern Conference games to get a victory.
The solution, coach Bobby Johnson reasoned following Saturday’s 23-7 loss to Ole Miss, might be to simplify.
“On offense, we might be trying to do too much,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to set up things with certain plays and have certain personnel groups. We’re just going to have to look at it and see if we don’t need to simplify a great deal and take advantage of the players we do have who can make some plays and make sure we’re executing.”
The Commodores (2-3 overall, 0-3 in the SEC) have scored just two touchdowns and a total of 19 points in conference play. Every other team has at least eight more than that, including the eight teams that have played just two conference contests.
In 2008 VU had 61 points in it first three SEC contests – all victories. The last time it scored so few at this point in the conference schedule was 2000 when it had just 17, and the last time it was held to single digits in each of the first three was in 1998 – both under coach Woody Widenhofer.
In losses to LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, the Vanderbilt offense has had a total of 37 possessions. Only 10 of those drives have gained 30 yards or more and only four have lasted for three minutes or longer.
“The defense is holding up their end of the bargain,” quarterback Larry Smith said. “We’re not holding up our end at all. Things have to turn around. We can’t keep relying on our defense to keep bailing us out of situations.”
The good news from the game with Ole Miss was that the Commodores’ inability to move the ball consistently did not preclude them from getting near the goal line. Five times they reached the Rebels’ 20 or beyond, which was four times more than they did so against LSU and Mississippi State.
The bad news was that only one of the five resulted in points on the board. Smith connected with Udom Umoh for a seven-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, Prior to that, Vanderbilt missed two field goals and after that Smith had a pass intercepted in the end zone and the offense failed to convert on a fourth down from the 11.
“We definitely need to put it in (the end zone),” center Bradley Vierling said. “Three points is definitely not enough in the SEC. You need to go down there and get six consistently.
“We were atrocious in the red zone (Saturday) night and that trend needs to stop.”