VU offense shows it has the drive, not consistency

Monday, October 19, 2009 at 1:54am

The blueprint now exists for Vanderbilt’s offense.

In one possession at the start of the second half of Saturday’s 34-10 loss to Georgia, the Commodores showed that power and precision are possible from a unit that has struggled to do either against SEC opponents.

They drove 80 yards in 11 plays and scored their first offensive touchdown in nearly eight full quarters. Nine of those plays gained yards, none lost any and the distance covered amounted to more than one-quarter of VU’s total offense in the contest.

“We ran the ball really well in that drive, and that gives us the opportunity to hit some passes when they have to play the run a little tougher,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “We executed, and we played well. We did what we’re supposed to do.

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve on every drive. If we could do that, I’d be a happy person.”

Twice on that drive Vanderbilt executed on third down, once for a first down on third-and-8 (one of three third-down conversions on the day) and the second when quarterback Larry Smith connected with Brandon Barden for a touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 5.

From start to finish, 4:16 came off the game clock, which made it the offense’s longest scoring drive — in terms of time — for the season.

“We kept those chains moving and had Georgia on their heels, and their defense was getting pretty tired because we kept getting up to the line of scrimmage pretty quickly,” Smith said. “We moved the ball excellent once we got a pretty good tempo going.”

Smith had a hand in more than half the total yards in that sequence. He ran for 21 and a first down on the second snap and completed his only two throws, one of which went for 25 yards to freshman wide receiver Collin Ashley and the touchdown toss to Barden.

Smith’s run and Ashley’s reception were the two biggest gains among the 70 total plays the Commodores ran in the contest.

Freshman running back Warren Norman did most of the rest of the work. Norman carried six times for 21 yards, while Zac Stacy gained five yards on one attempt and Smith picked up three more on another run.

“We felt great,” right tackle Reilly Lauer said. “We just went out there and hit them right in the mouth. We weren’t expecting it. It was a great drive. We felt really good after that. I wish we could have kept that going.”

They couldn’t.

Vanderbilt had the ball four more times in the game. The first three they punted without getting a first down, and their total offense for the remainder of the game was 54 yards.

The Commodores have just three offensive touchdowns in their last five SEC contests, which dates back to a 20-10 loss to Tennessee late in 2008.

Safety Reshard Langford’s 42-yard interception return accounted for the only VU touchdown against the Volunteers, and the offense also failed to reach the end zone in a 15-3 loss to Mississippi State earlier this season. In losses to LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia, the offense scored one touchdown each time.

“I thought we were really going to get it rolling after that,” Barden said. “We came out and everybody executed. That’s the main thing that we need to start doing as a team. You see the result – a touchdown.

“We have to get more of that going on.”