Let the 0-2 start be darned.
Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said his players are ready to roll as they prepare to travel to Oxford to play Ole Miss on Saturday.
Caldwell was disappointed but not discouraged by Saturday’s 27-3 loss to LSU. He pointed to a defensive effort that held the 19th-ranked Tigers to 10 points through three quarters as a positive note. During his weekly press conference Monday Caldwell discussed what needed improvement. He said accountability and discipline would have to increase to address two of VU’s primary issues: penalties and blocking.
Penalties plagued the Commodores for the second week in a row, particularly on offense. Within the first 20 snaps the team was penalized five times.
The total of seven penalties for 52 yards was not that terrible, and Caldwell said two penalties were taken on purpose.
But the timing of certain penalties stifled offensive progress.
Vanderbilt’s fourth drive, with the score 7-0 in LSU’s favor, began with Zac Stacy breaking multiple tackles on a six-yard carry. A personal foul on Joey Bailey after the play put the offense back in the hole to second-and-19. Quarterback Larry Smith then rushed for a short gain on second down, but a false start by Ryan Seymour moved the ball back again on third down. After failing to get the 23 yards needed, Vanderbilt sent out Richard Kent to punt.
“It’s because of mistakes—a jump offside, an illegal crack, different situations—that put us behind the 8-ball early,” Caldwell said. “And it gets frustrating when you start chasing points. It’s very difficult for an inexperienced bunch. That starts with me, I’ve got to make practice more disciplined every day.”
In week one, the Commodores lost 91 yards on seven penalties. The program is traditionally one of the best in the SEC regarding yellow flags. In 2009, Vanderbilt averaged just 50 yards in penalties per game.
To address the struggles of his offensive line, Caldwell said VU would simplify things. The Commodores lost 47 yards on six sacks against LSU and Smith felt pressure to get rid of the ball in a hurry throughout the game.
“We made more mental mistakes than we’ve ever made," Caldwell said. "I have to take the blame, we had too much in (the playbook), and undoubtedly they couldn’t handle it. If we have to run three-four plays—as I said earlier—to execute properly than that’s what we’ll do.”
It’s something that Caldwell has done before in his previous role as Vanderbilt’s offensive line coach.
“We did that last year and ya’ll didn’t even notice it,” he said. “We basically ran two plays and averaged five yards a carry rushing the football after that, and if we have to do that again that’s what we’ll do so we can compete.”
Caldwell also said that a pair of freshmen the team has been grooming will see more action. James Kitterage consistently improved during the offseason backing up Joey Bailey at center and taking reps at left guard. Caldwell noted that Kitterage and fellow freshman Logan Stewart might see the field against Ole Miss.
On Saturday, Caldwell said his team was “out physical-ed” by LSU, particularly at the line. He said the offensive line needs to utilize double-teams, traps and other schemes to handle physically gifted defensive fronts like LSU and upcoming Ole Miss.
Through his trademark humor, Caldwell said intimidation is one thing he will not accept.
“Offensively, up front we got a little intimidated maybe,” he said. “Hopefully we can calm that down. I don’t’ know what there is to fear—they can’t eat us. If they do we’ll sour their stomach and they’ll throw us back up.”