Saturday's 34-10 loss to Georgia wasn't as lopsided as it seemed, as the Commodores trailed 17-10 in the third quarter after an excellent touchdown drive to open the half.
The Bulldogs closed with 17 straight points, due in part to a terrible performance by Vanderbilt's normally steady punt and kickoff coverage units, but also because of a defense that keeps spending the better part of a half-hour on the field due to the continually sputtering Commodore offense.
In its five losses this year, Vanderbilt has been outscored 37-10 in the fourth quarter. All 10 of Vanderbilt's points came against Army, and the only touchdown was a Warren Norman kickoff return.
As the games have worn on, the Commodore defense has worn down. And who could blame them, seeing as they've spent an average of 33:26 per game this season on the field?
On Saturday, the Bulldogs spent almost 11 minutes on the field in the final stanza, scoring two touchdowns on a defense that was, once again, spent.
Vanderbilt's offensive line continued to underachieve, allowing Larry Smith to be harassed all game. He was sacked three times and chased on countless others as the Commodores were just 3-of-15 on third down conversions.
The fact that Vanderbilt scored its most points of the season in an SEC game on Saturday should not be a point of celebration. It should be a point of lamentation.
Ten points? The best of the conference slate? And this against Georgia, who made Jonathan Crompton look like Peyton Manning in a 45-19 defeat just one week before.
But hey, it was a nice-looking drive Vandy had there at the beginning of the half. If they had three or four more like that, the Commodores would have been in business.
But they didn't.
After that rousing score by Brandon Barden on a strike from Larry Smith, the Commodores went three-and-out three straight times and then turned the ball over on downs.
Boy, there's some consistency right there.
I sure hope that Bobby Johnson recognizes this can't continue into next season. I sure hope the offense realizes it owes the defense a better effort as the team tries to finish the season with a shred of respectability.
Because at 2-5 and as the only team in the SEC without a conference win, for the moment, the Commodores have resumed their traditional place in the mansion that is the SEC East: the basement.
They won't start crawling upstairs any time soon if a touchdown and a field goal is the best they can muster.
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