A poor start and Vanderbilt is finished.
Increasingly, that is the simple truth.
The latest example was Saturday’s 51-28 loss to Missouri. The Commodores put up some of their best offensive numbers of the season, nearly matched the Tigers score for score over the final three quarters but were undone by a 20-point deficit before the end of the first quarter.
“You, obviously, have to factor in the score in terms of some of your play calling to try to catch up there,” quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said. “But it doesn’t really change our mood or how we are disciplined and what we’re supposed to do and the way we approach each down. So it’s not a huge difference because of the start.”
Except when it comes to the final score, that is.
Five times now in seven losses since the start of last season, Vanderbilt fell behind by at least 10 points at the start and never fully recovered.
More often than not the Commodores made it competitive. Once – this season’s opener against Ole Miss – they even had a lead late in the fourth quarter.
Trailed: 20-0, 2:50 to play, first quarter
Final score: 51-28
at South Carolina
Trailed: 28-0, 10:03 to play, second quarter
Final score: 35-25
vs. Ole Miss
Trailed: 10-0, 6:04 to play, first quarter
Final score: 39-35
Trailed: 27-0, 5:17 to play, second quarter
Final score: 48-3
vs. South Carolina
Trailed: 10-0, 11:44 to play, second quarter
Final score: 17-13
“On offense you can’t start the game with three-and-outs and a turnover,” coach James Franklin said.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday. The first three possessions included two three-and-outs and an interception. Missouri converted the takeaway into a touchdown in just one play.
By the time the Commodores (3-3, 0-3 in the SEC) recorded a first down for the first time, the Tigers (5-0, 1-0) already had four scoring drives of 3:29 or less.
“[Saturday], the scoreboard never affected us – never affected the way the defense played, never affected the way the offense played,” Carta-Samuels said. “… We got 470 yards of offense in a loss. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad. There’s a lot of good in that number and there’s a lot of mistakes we left out on the field.
“So I really could care less [what] happened in the first five minutes.”