VANDERBILT (1-3) vs. EASTERN MICHIGAN (0-5)
6 p.m., Saturday
TV: ESPNU (Comcast Ch. 272)/ Radio: WRQQ-FM 97.1
About the Commodores:
• Cornerback Casey Hayward has had an interception in each of the last three games. His three picks on the season currently are tied second-most in the SEC. Hayward said he should have “at least four” after mishandling a pair of near interceptions against Northwestern.
The junior also leads the conference with at total of six passes defended.
• Defensive end Tim Fugger leads the SEC with three forced fumbles. Defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant places emphasis on turnover creation in practice.
• Running back Warren Norman has found his step in the kick return game. He netted 162 total return yards against UConn and is third in the SEC in return yards. Norman had a conference-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns last season.
• The defense will be without preseason All-SEC selection Chris Marve at middle linebacker. Marve, tied for second in the SEC in tackles, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday. Senior Nate Campbell will replace him.
About the Eagles:
• Senior running back Dwayne Priest has rushed for five touchdowns this season. Against Army he racked up 142 yards on the ground and reached the end zone twice.
• Sophomore quarterback Alex Gillett is adept at both passing and running the ball. Against Army, Gillett ran for 126 yards and a touchdown. Against second ranked Ohio State, he competed 13 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
• Head coach Ron English is winless (0-17) since he took over the program in 2009. The Eagles were 0-12 last season.
• Athletic director Derrick Gragg was a Vanderbilt football player in the late 1980s and early 90s. He played wide receiver for the Commodores and had a career highlight of three touchdown catches in a 1990 game against Alabama.
Something to consider:
• VU has bounced back from a discouraging loss once already this year. In Week 2, the Commodores lost to LSU 27-3. Their response was a 28-14 handling of Ole Miss in Oxford the next week.
Vanderbilt was ambushed at UConn in a 40-21 loss last week.
• Vanderbilt is 9-3 all time against MAC opponents. The only time VU and EMU have met was in 2007, a 30-7 Commodores’ victory.
If there ever was a game Vanderbilt needed to win, this is it; EMU hasn’t won in more than a year. The Commodores are without significant leaders on defense (Marve, T.J. Greenstone, Adam Smotherman) but Bryant gameplans far too well to send his reserves in unprepared. On offense, the rushing tandem of Norman and Zac Stacy will control things.
They are just too talented for the MAC visitors to contain.
Vanderbilt 31, Eastern Michigan 13