Sitting down with us this week is Anchor of Gold writer Christian D'Andrea. We try to figure out what's happened to the Vanderbilt Commodores that was them starting 0-2, what good, if any, we can take from their play, and what the Minutemen's chance for an upset are. Without further ado, let's get to the questions:
Hustle Belt: Vanderbilt has fallen to 0-2, losing by a combined 78-10. What's been plaguing the Commodores?
Christian D'Andrea: The offense and defense are both in the midst of transitional periods. The defense is shifting to a 3-4 and the offense is evolving into a steaming pile of hot garbage. The Commodore D is coming along despite moving their defensive ends to outside linebacker and dealing with a secondary that has had to replace every starter from last year's nine-win season.
Offensively, this team is attempting to stick to a game plan that they don't have the personnel to drive. Stephen Rivers has looked terrible at quarterback, Patton Robinette got yanked six passes into the season (and now may be injured), and Johnny McCrary has only completed two passes in his college career - both to the same Temple cornerback. This wouldn't be an insurmountable challenge, but this team refuses to back away from a spread offense that values accuracy downfield. Rather than building QBs, Vandy is throwing them into the fire and hoping for the best.
What's making this extremely frustrating is that the team may have unearthed a gem with redshirt freshman RB Ralph Webb, but they haven't been able to get the ball in his hands when the team needs big plays.
HB: What is the biggest strength of the Commodores? What's the weakness the Minutemen would have to exploit to win?
CD: Biggest strength: defensive line. The 'Dores should be able to put plenty of pressure on Blake Frohnapfel, especially with Caleb Azubike moving from OLB to DT, where he'll be more effective as a pass rusher. Vince Taylor, who is roughly the size of a barge, had a big game last week against Ole Miss and should be a constant presence in the UMass backfield as well.
Biggest weakness: total lack of offense. This team hasn't scored an offensive touchdown yet. It's entirely possible that this game consists only of field goals and safeties.
HB: Derek Mason has struggled through two games. How has the fan base reacted to the current slump?
CD: Vandy fans are already calling for his ouster. One enterprising fan even bought firederekmason.com, which seems a bit extreme but also makes me feel like we've finally truly made it as an SEC program. The more thoughtful fans are throwing shade at offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell and his complete inability to score, but both coaches will get tossed directly into the fire if Vandy loses to UMass on Saturday.
HB: How do you think this game is going to play out, and what's your prediction for the final score?
CD: I think this one stays tight through the first three quarters, but the Vandy D will bend throughout the day but keep from breaking when it matters most to hold the Minutemen to some key field goals that could have been touchdowns. The 'Dores take it 17-13, but UMass covers the hell out of that ridiculous +17 spread.
HB: Creepier Smile: Sam the Minuteman or Mr. C?
CD: Until your mascot accidentally (or intentionally) assaults a fan, I'm going to have to run with Mr. C here. Good on Sam for looking like colonial Gaston from Beauty and the Beast though. I hear he's especially good at expectorating!
HB: Thanks for your time Christian.