VANDERBILT (2-9) vs. WAKE FOREST (2-9)
6:35 p.m. (CST), Saturday
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville
TV: CSS (Comcast, Ch. 27) Radio: WRQQ-FM 97.1
About the Commodores:
• They allow 430.2 yards per game, which ranks last in the Southeastern Conference. On offense, they average just 285.1 yards per game, which is the fewest in the league.
• The offense has had its moments. Of their 23 offensive touchdowns, nine have been on plays of 30 yards or more. Warren Norman’s 80-yard touchdown run against Mississippi on Sept. 18 is the Commodores’ longest scoring play of the season.
• Cornerback Casey Hayward recorded his sixth interception of the season when he picked off Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray last Saturday. Hayward’s six picks are tied for the fifth-most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Hayward also leads the nation with 17 passes defended, including 11 pass breakups. The last time a VU player had more than six picks in a season was when Leonard Coleman had eight in 1982 and tied the school record set in 1973 by Thomas Wingfield.
• They have moved the ball inside the 20-yard line a league-low 26 times and have scored just 19 times for a 73.1 percentage in the red zone. That ranks 11th in the SEC and is tied for 111th in the FBS.
About the Deamon Deacons:
• They allow 429.5 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Only Duke has allowed more yards (443.8). On offense, Wake Forest averages just 302.6 yards per game, which is the fewest in the ACC.
• They are known to bust off a big play every now and then. Wake Forest is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to have three plays of 80-plus yards. Josh Harris’ 87-yard touchdown run against Virginia Tech on Oct. 16 is tied for the six-longest rush in the nation this season. The Demon Deacons also scored on plays of 85 and 81 yards.
• Like Vanderbilt, they have picked off a total of nine passes. Alex Frye leads the team with three interceptions.
• They have moved the ball inside the 20-yard line a league-low 25 times. Their percentage is a smidge better than Vanderbilt’s, though. They have scored 20 times, coming away with points 80 percent of the time. That ranks seventh in the ACC and is tied for 75th in the FBS.
Something to consider:
• Both teams have struggled to move the chains. Vanderbilt is last in the FBS in first downs with 152, for an average of 13.8 per game. Wake Forest has just 175 for 15.9 per game, which ranks 110th. By comparison, Oklahoma State leads the nation with 301 first downs, averaging 27.36 a game.
• Wake Forest leads the all-time series 7-5. The Demon Deacons have won two straight, including the last time the teams met in 2008. Wake Forest grabbed a 23-10 victory in Winston-Salem, N.C. Saturday’s matchup will be the third game of a seven-game series that runs through 2014.
• The last time Vanderbilt won its last regular-season game was in 2005 when it defeated Tennessee 28-24 in Knoxville. The Commodores also won the last game of the 2008 season – a 16-14 victory over Boston College in the Music City Bowl. They dropped their regular-season finale that year, though. They lost to – guess who? – Wake Forest.
Vanderbilt has more to play for than one would think. First, the Commodores’ pride is on the line. A loss on Saturday would end their season, for the second straight year, with a lengthy losing streak. They dropped eight consecutive games a year ago and are currently on a six-game losing skid.
Probably more importantly though is that this might be the last game for head coach Robbie Caldwell and his coaching staff. There is speculation that Caldwell will not be at the helm for a second year. So while a win might not salvage a 2-9 season, it couldn’t hurt anything. Plus, expect the Commodores to be fighting hard to send their seniors out with a win.
If quarterback Larry Smith can’t go because of knee and arm injuries, Jared Funk will most likely get the start. The senior also injured his left knee against Tennessee but sounds more promising than Smith. Funk showed good signs of what he is capable of Saturday, throwing for 146 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee on Saturday. That could give the Commodores a lift over Wake Forest, who will be trying to snap a nine-game losing streak.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, Vanderbilt is long overdue for a win.
Vanderbilt 24, Wake Forest 17