The interview series is back! I apologize that it was not here last week, as our Nevada interview fell through at the last moment. It is probably the reason we lost. At least I will claim that if we lose this week.
In the meantime, Tom Stephenson from SB Nation’s Anchor of Gold has stopped by to answer some questions about Vanderbilt.
T-Mill: Georgia is Georgia, but after falling behind 21-0 in a hurry on Saturday Vanderbilt held pretty steady the rest of the day. What did you see that was encouraging.
Tom: Georgia scored touchdowns on its first three drives, and the early part of the game on Saturday looked like it could easily end up like the 59-0 debacle against Alabama in 2017, and instead of suffering a soul-crushing loss the defense managed to get a few stops and keep the game from getting completely out of hand -- I mean, at no point did it feel like Vanderbilt had a chance to actually win the game, but at least they didn’t get embarrassed. But that was the result of just occasionally holding up, forcing Georgia into kicking three field goals, forcing a fumble at the tail end of a big pass play, and stuffing a 4th-and-1 deep in their own territory. It’s encouraging but not super encouraging, because had the dam broken Georgia could have won 56-6 or something like that.
T-Mill: The name Ke’Shawn Vaughn will be familiar to Purdue fans, as we recruited him heavily out of high school then he had a big day against us for Illinois in 2015 in the game where it pretty much became obvious Darrell Hazell was done. Remind us what we’re looking at with him.
Tom: You’re looking at a guy who’s capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. The big problem last year was that for whatever reason, Vanderbilt limited him to 10-15 touches per game, but that came with an incredible 7.9 yards per carry. If he can show that he can handle 20-25 carries a game, he’s a first round running back. That said, he only got 18 touches on Saturday night, which seems less than ideal.
T-Mill: Purdue is reeling a bit after blowing a 17-point lead at Nevada. Does that give you a bit more confidence going into Saturday?
Tom: Hmmmm. Not really. I think it’s fairly easy to figure out why Purdue lost: they committed five turnovers, but they also outgained Nevada 519-404, and most of Nevada’s yards came through the air. I’ll preface this by saying that I was already reasonably confident about the game, but while that game revealed some weaknesses, they may not necessarily be weaknesses that Vanderbilt can exploit; I’m not expecting Purdue to lose three fumbles again, basically, and I’d feel differently if some random running back from Nevada were racking up yards (because that really is something Vanderbilt can replicate) -- but after what we saw from Riley Neal last Saturday, I’m just not sure Vanderbilt is ready to exploit deficiencies in the pass defense.
T-Mill: Vanderbilt not only has won both games against Purdue, they have won in a shutout. Does Purdue finally score?
Tom: Vanderbilt hasn’t shut out an FBS opponent since 2012, and that was a team coached by Joker Phillips. Before that, you’d have to go all the way back to Virginia Tech in 1982. The point is that we don’t shut teams out very often. So... yes, I would expect that Purdue will score.
T-Mill: Purdue faced two SEC opponents last season and dropped both: a very close game with Missouri in West Lafayette and an absolute bloodletting against Auburn in your city. Did you see much of Purdue in either and what are your concerns in facing the Boilers?
Tom: I didn’t see much of either game. I know last year I didn’t have the Big Ten Network on my cable package (something that has since been remedied with the advance knowledge that we’d be playing on the BTN), which would have ruled out the Missouri game -- and as a side note, we at Anchor of Gold don’t really count Missouri as an SEC team. I might have caught a bit of the bowl game and quickly turned it off because I generally don’t like watching snuff films.
My main concern with facing Purdue is that they’re coached by Jeff Brohm, a man who already beat us when he was the coach at Western Kentucky and then nearly did it again in 2016 but for a failed two-point conversion in overtime. I know that’s a man who can coach up an offense that will score points, and in Rondale Moore he has a guy who’s a far better athlete than anything on that Western Kentucky team. I will also not lie and pretend like I’ve heard of anybody else who plays for Purdue. I’m worried that this game will be a shootout and after what we saw last week, I am deeply concerned about Vanderbilt’s ability to keep up in such a game.
T-Mill: What else can you tell us about Vanderbilt in advance of the B1G-SEC Black & Gold Challenge? Also, we do apologize for Kevin Stallings
Tom: Yeah, and Purdue even does the right shade of gold, unlike Missouri. We might manage to have more fans in the stands in West Lafayette than we did last Saturday for a home game against Georgia, which was a very sad display: seats that are normally held by longtime season-ticket holders were suddenly held by people in red and black who were probably paying more for their ticket to that game than Vanderbilt charges for a season-ticket package. It’s just a constant annoyance, sort of like it is for Northwestern in the Big Ten, because both are teams with small-ish alumni bases that largely don’t stay local after graduation, and they’re located in destination cities that also happen to have a lot of alumni from the other schools in the conference. Of course, there’s that committed group of folks that travel with the team, and for a game like this we’ll probably pick up some alumni who live in Chicago and Indianapolis (and West Lafayette isn’t that long of a drive from Nashville) -- and, of course, the similar color schemes mean we’ll fit right in at Ross-Ade.
And, uh, Kevin Stallings has more wins than anyone else who’s coached basketball at Vanderbilt, why are you apologizing for him? Tell Valpo to apologize for Bryce Drew if we’re doing this.