In three of Vanderbilt's four losses last year, the Commodores lost the turnover battle. Once again, mistakes proved to be fatal in the Commodores' 39-35, opening-night loss to Ole Miss last Thursday, as the Commodores' minus-2 performance put a dent in VU's hopes of upsetting the Rebels.
The Commodores missed some golden opportunities to intercept Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace, but failed to force a single turnover on the evening. Meanwhile, the Rebels' two picks of Austyn Carta-Samuels were key: the first led to a Rebel field goal, and the second snuffed out a potential game-winning drive in Ole Miss territory.
On Monday, coach James Franklin spoke to not only the turnovers, but other failures of execution that contributed to Vandy's loss.
"After watching the tape, it was about what we had thought. I think the biggest factors in the game were the turnover battles," Franklin said. "Not only did our offense turn the ball over, but also our defense didn't create turnovers. Which I think would have solved a lot of problems for us, in terms of getting off the field.
"We also lost the penalty battle, not by much but we lost that as well and we missed our goal of explosive plays. We had six on offense, our goal is eight and our goal is three or less on defense and we had four. I think those things were all factors."
On Thursday, VU had five penalties for 40 yards, compared to Ole Miss's four for 49.
Franklin defines an "explosive play" as something over 20 yards. One of Ole Miss's explosive plays proved to be a back-breaker: Jeff Scott's game-winning, 75-yard scamper with about a minute and a half left, which came just after VU had taken the lead.
The Commodores shouldn't have much problem winning the battle of explosive plays or turnovers against Austin Peay this week. The FCS's Governors, who will travel about an hour from their Clarksville campus to Nashville this weekend, managed just 211 yards in a 45-0 loss to Tennessee last weekend -- the same Volunteer squad that yielded 471 yards and 35.7 points per game last year.
The Governors return 18 of 22 starters from last year's 2-9 squad. One of those two wins was over NAIA foe Culver-Stockton, a 3-9 team which won two games by forfeit. APSU failed to come closer than 15 points in any of its losses, but ended 2012 with a 38-31 win over Tennessee Tech.
Notes: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, despite being double-covered most of the evening, set a career high with 178 yards and tied a career high with 10 catches. The senior missed some plays as a result of being dehydrated, and once he was given an IV, a hard hit to the gut caused him to vomit on the field. But even in spite of it, the Alabama native made perhaps Vandy's biggest play of the night, a long reception on a 4th-and-18 play to set up a go-ahead touchdown on the next snap. Some media questioned whether he was playing with a concussion. There were some things said about what was done with Jordan Matthews Thursday night. "First of all, the coaches never make those decisions. That is a decision that our medical staff will make and I think that we have one of the finest medical staffs in the country, not just with our specific trainers, but also with Vanderbilt Hospital. I want everyone to understand that we will never do anything to put any of our players in jeopardy, those decisions will always be made by the medical staff," Franklin said. "I want everyone to understand that Vanderbilt will always put the player and their well being ahead of everything else." ... WR Chris Boyd, VU's second-leading receiver a year ago, remains suspended indefinitely for his role as an accessory after-the-fact for a June 23 rape of a student on the Vanderbilt campus. Campus policy will not allow for Boyd's return while the charges linger. September 19 is set as a discussion date in the case, and the junior's case could be settled by then.
-- DT Jared Morse, listed second in a timeshare at his position last week with freshman Adam Butler, is now listed as the first guy in what remains an "or" situation. ... Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels did well in his first Southeastern Conference start, connecting on 21-of-36 throws for 300 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Both his interceptions could have been prevented with help from receivers; the first one resulted when TE Kris Kentera appeared to have a catch, but an Ole Miss defender wrestled it away from him on the way to the ground. The second came on a ball that went through an exhausted Matthews' hands on VU's last offensive snap.