Fundamentals instead of flags.
That is the approach Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson and his staff have adopted in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to Ole Miss at home.
“We’re going to try to get down the basics and make sure we have everything covered,” Johnson said Monday at his weekly press briefing. “We did it (Sunday) – snap count, getting the snap, getting the handoff, line up right. All the things you’re supposed to do almost automatically, we were taking for granted, I think.
“That really hurt us this past week.”
The Commodores were called for 12 penalties, which cost them 74 yards against Ole Miss. It was their most penalized performance in six years.
Nine of the penalties were against the offense. Six of those nine were false starts, one was an illegal procedure and one was an illegal shift – all violations that took place while the ball was not in play.
“We had so many procedural penalties,” Johnson said. “It was very disheartening to have your team do things like that because they are controllable and we have controlled them over the years.”
Several players on Vanderbilt’s offense said the Rebels attempted to disrupt the Commodores’ timing by calling out signals prior to the snap. Ole Miss was called for delay of game just once – in the second half – because of the tactic.
“A couple times they had been screaming and what-not, and we go off a certain cadence,” center Bradley Vierling said. “That caused us to jump a few times … but that shouldn’t matter. We’re a smart enough team and we’re disciplined enough that those things shouldn’t affect us.”
Prior to that contest, the Commodores’ primary penalty issues came on the road. They had seven for 52 yards at LSU and nine for 74 yards at Rice. In their first two home games (Western Carolina and Mississippi State) they had a total of just six for 39 yards.
“(Sunday) we went out and practiced a little bit on the snap count and doing some different things like that and just trying to get everybody focused,” left tackle Thomas Welch said. “There’s no excuse for jumping offside as many times as we did. We just have regroup and get everybody together.”
Five games into the season Vanderbilt is still third in the Southeastern Conference in fewest penalty yards per game (47.8). Only Tennessee (28.8) and LSU (43.6) average less.
However, with 34 total penalties the Commodores are well ahead of their pace from last season when they had 56 in 13 games. Only twice in 2008 did they have seven or more in a game. Already this season they have had that many three times.
“I think we’re trying to worry about too much with certain people,” Johnson said. “We just need to let them do their basic jobs and to count on each other to do those jobs. If you do that and take care of your own business, you’re going to be OK.
“I think sometimes we may do too much (and) ask our guys to think a little bit too much. Then they forget about the basics.”
• There is a possibility that both wide receiver John Cole (broken hand), and safety Sean Richardson (torn thumb ligament) could play this weekend at Army. Richardson was used sparingly against Ole Miss.
Defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone (knee) played against Ole Miss and recorded two tackles as well as his second career quarterback pressure.
Defensive end Steven Stone (foot) and running back Zach Stacy (ankle) are not expected to play this weekend.
• Brent Trice was credited with a career-high 14 tackles Saturday in his second consecutive start at strong safety. The senior was a starting linebacker for most of the first three games.
“I was really proud of him for stepping up and being that versatile and going out and having an exceptional game,” Johnson said.
• Cornerback Myron Lewis had interceptions in consecutive games for the first time in his career. He got two against Rice and one against Ole Miss.
He needs one more to become the 13th VU player ever with at least 10 in his career.
• Vanderbilt’s defense allowed Ole Miss to convert 10 times on third down (on 18 attempts) on Saturday. The previous four opponents had a combined 14 conversions in 63 attempts.