Vanderbilt has not been immune to turnovers this season.
However, Saturday’s 16-13 overtime loss at Army had much more to do with the times the Commodores lost the ball than any of their previous three defeats.
The most glaring example was Warren Norman’s fumble in the first OT period. When it rolled out of the back of the end zone, it became just the third lost fumble for VU this season. More importantly, it allowed Army to end the contest with a field goal on the ensuing possession.
“I think (Norman) thought he was in,” Army linebacker Andrew Rodriguez said. “It looked like he let up a little bit. I just attacked the ball, and it came out and rolled through the back of the end zone, luckily.”
With two interceptions in addition to the lost fumble and just one fumble recovery, Vanderbilt was a season-worst minus-2 in turnover ratio against Army. The last two giveaways – a fourth-quarter interception and Norman’s fumble each led to a field goal and Army’s last six points.
In their previous three defeats, the Commodores committed a total of just four turnovers.
“(Army) played really well and (has) an excellent defense,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “They played extremely hard and efficient and we were just about the polar opposite of that on offense.”
Only once in its first three defeats did a Vanderbilt turnover lead to points for the opposition. Mississippi State turned a fumble recovery into a field goal but later failed to take advantage of an interception.
LSU and Ole Miss each managed only one interception with no fumble recoveries. In each case the Commodores’ defense forced a three-and-out in the wake of the giveaway.
Halfway through the season, Vanderbilt still is fourth in the SEC in turnover margin at plus-5.
Alabama (plus-9), LSU (plus-7) and Auburn (plus-6) are the only ones better. Between the three of them they have just two losses, half as many as the Commodores (2-4) have on their own.
“We are in a tough spot,” Johnson said. “We've got some really good teams we've got to play the rest of the way in, but they aren't going to call off the rest of the season, and we aren't either. … We’ll get back on it. We'll give our very best effort, and be ready to stay in it.”
Johnson did challenge the ruling on Norman’s fumble, not necessarily because he thought the wrong call was made but because of the critical moment at which it occurred. Video review upheld the original ruling of the officials.
“I think it was the right call,” Johnson said. “I challenged it just to make sure.”
In the coming weeks, the Commodores will want to make sure they hold on to the ball.