Coming off of a strong defensive performance opening weekend against Texas A&M, the Vanderbilt Commodores hoped to build off of their strong showing against an LSU team that looked vulnerable after a week 1 upset against Mississippi State. Unfortunately for the ‘Dores, the Bayou Bengals looked more like the 2019 team that went 15-0 and systematically dismantled opponents than the squad that had showed up against the Pirate and the rest of the Bulldogs from Starkvegas. Myles Brennan looked like the highly touted prospect that we all imagined, throwing for 337 yards and 4 scores, and getting the ball into the hands of a bevy of athletes that were able to use their superior speed against a Commodore defense that was a step slow all night.
The biggest question heading in to the game was if LSU’s offensive line would be able to hold up against the Vanderbilt defensive line, lead by Dayo Odeyingbo and Andre Mintze, both of whom lived in the backfield against the Aggies. But give credit to LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger – instead of using play action, and slow developing plays that would have put his tackles on an island against a formidable pass rush, instead, he used the quick passing game to its finest, and was able to get the ball out of Brennan’s hands quickly, and into the hands of 13 different Tiger receivers on the night. While no single LSU player had more than 4 catches or 70 yards receiving, by spreading the wealth out amongst all of the receivers and backs, it kept the Commodores defense on their heels. LSU was able to use their superior team speed to run by Vanderbilt defenders on every series, without fail.
On the other side of the ball, calling the Commodores’ offense anemic would be a disservice to those with an iron deficiency. After a promising debut, Ken Seals looked like a true freshman, completing less than half of his throw for a paltry 4.5 yards per attempt, and throwing back-to-back interceptions in the 4th quarter to seal it for the Tigers. The running game did not fare any better, averaging 3.6 yards per carry behind an undermanned and undersized offensive line.
But despite all of the ugly stats, there was a beacon of hope in the despair that occurred on the west end of Nashville on Saturday night – true freshman safety Donovan Kaufman. Kaufman, one of the most highly touted recruits to join the Commodores in the past decade already looks the part of a multi-year SEC starter, and wearing the coveted #1 jersey, he stands out on the field for a variety of reasons. In this game, he led the team in tackles with 10, broke up a pass, and was around the ball on seemingly every play. And while it’s never a good sign when a safety is the team leader in stops, this baby-faced assassin showed that he is not afraid of the spot light. On top of his defensive prowess, he showed off his elite athleticism with a 58-yard kick return late in the second quarter, right after Terrance Marshall had scored his second highlight real touchdown of the game to put the Tigers in front 21-7. But Kaufman’s efforts were short circuited by a questionable coaching decision to kick a field goal (which was missed) right before the half, squandering all momentum that had been gained, and permanently swinging the momentum to coach Orgeron’s team.
This coming week’s tilt against a South Carolina team that has looked almost as out of sorts as the Commodores have this season represents maybe their only chance to win a game (save for their matchup against the ever-volatile Mississippi State Bulldogs in a few weeks). Coach Mason may want to consider trying to get the ball in the hands of Kaufman on offense as well, because he’s proven that he is the only reliable spark that they have through two weeks. Otherwise, fans in the music city will be clamoring for Mason’s job even more than they already are.
Matt Perkins is the producer and host of the Bleav in Vanderbilt Football Podcast and the Illegal Motion College Football Podcast. He is an audio engineer and filmmaking instructor based in Nashville, TN. You can find the shows here: