Vanderbilt’s regular season recap: Fresh ink all over the football record book

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SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

Vanderbilt Commodores

Final Record: 8-4 overall, 4-4 in SEC

Coming off a nine-win season and going to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in history, Vanderbilt was ready to make some serious noise. The next step for the program would be to get nine regular season wins and beat one of the big three in the SEC East. Although they didn’t get to nine, they beat two SEC East powerhouses in Georgia and Florida.

Related: Final SEC regular season standings

I said before the season started that Vandy could win 10 games, including a bowl game victory, but the key game to the entire season would be week one against Ole Miss. The Dores played the SEC’s easiest schedule, and there was a serious chance 10 wins could happen.

With the awful situation surrounding the rape case, it led to the dismissal of NFL prospect and receiver Chris Boyd. Boyd and Jordan Matthews were arguably the best one-two receiving duo in the country. But Boyd’s dismissal cost the Commodores some explosiveness on offense, and a one-dimensional offense needed his ability on the outside.

Vanderbilt’s offense wasn’t explosive, but credit James Franklin and his offensive staff in fitting the pieces together for an overall veteran group. QB Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 2,268 yards, 11 TDs and nine INTs, and he missed two games against Texas A&M and Florida. Backup Patton Robinette struggled sometimes in the passing game, but he’s an adequate runner, rushing for 177 yards and six TDs.

Related: Austyn Carta-Samuels played three games on a torn ACL

Emerging star RB Jerron Seymour gave the offense some identity in the running game. Although the Dores finished last in the SEC in rushing yards, Seymour was tough and hard to tackle, rushing for 627 yards and 13 TDs. Wesley Tate and Brian Kimbrow added a nice one-two punch as the backups, but Seymour – when healthy – was the lifeblood of the running game.

But there’s no doubt the superstar on offense was Jordan Matthews. After catching 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight TDs in 2012, he turned right around and had an even better season, even when the defense knew it was coming his way. Matthews caught an SEC-high 107 passes for 1,334 yards and five TDs. He exudes greatness, and he’s going to be a player at the next level. Matthews became the first WR in SEC history to catch over 100 passes in a year, and he broke his school record for receiving yards. Seriously, what can’t Matthews do?

Receivers Jonathan Krause and Jordan Cunningham were nice complements, but neither were Chris Boyd. Krause caught 41 passes for 703 yards and three TDs on the season.

The biggest question entering the season for the Commodores’ defense was along the defensive line. Replacing three senior starters isn’t anything to take for granted, but they had a strong year. The Dores finished fourth in the SEC in run defense and ninth in passing defense, which has been the outright strength of the defensive unit for the last couple of years.

DE Walker May had another strong season. The senior recorded 40 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks, including four QB hurries. DE Kyle Woestmann, DT Adam Butler, DT Jared Morse, DT Vince Daylor and DE Caleb Azubike, among others, all rotated and created some solid depth. Woestmann recorded a team-high 5.5 sacks, while Azubike recorded a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss.

The linebacking corps took a hit when Chase Garnham missed playing time due to an injury, and the Dores’ leader only played in five games. Fellow linebacker Darreon Herring finished with 80 tackles, and Kari Butler finished with 38 tackles, including 7.5 for loss. The secondary was strong again, headlined by safety Kenny Ladler and corner Andre Hal. A signature trademark, the Dores finished second in the SEC with 16 INTs.

Place kicker Carey Spear had another good season, as he made 76.5 percent of his kicks, and punter Taylor Hudson finished fifth in the SEC in punting, averaging 42.88 yards per punt.
Here’s a look at the team stats:

Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 29.2 PPG (9th)
Rushing Offense 133 YPG (14th)
Passing Offense 233.7 YPG (9th)
Total Offense 366.7 YPG (10th)
Scoring Defense 24.7 PPG (9th)
Rushing Defense 148 YPG (4th)
Passing Defense 204.3 YPG (5th)
Total Defense 352.3 YPG (5th)

One that got away: I said it before the season, and it still proves true now – the Ole Miss game was the most important game of the season. It would be the difference in nine or 10 wins for 2013. The Commodores had the game won, taking the 35-32 lead with 1:30 left. But Ole Miss RB Jeff Scott housed one from 75 yards and the winning score. Jordan Matthews made play after play down the stretch.

Offensive Stud: Jordan Matthews was not only the Commodores’ best player, he was one of the best players in the entire country. He now owns SEC and school records for receptions and yards, and he has one more game to add to those numbers. Defenses couldn’t stop Matthews even when they knew the ball was coming his direction. What an incredible season for an underrated player overall.

Defensive Stud: Safety Kenny Ladler had another strong season. He recorded a team-high 87 tackles and added five INTs and seven passes defended to lead the defense. Ladler is great in pass coverage, but he’s an even better tackler. He’s one of the better safety tacklers in college football.

What’s next: The Dores can complete another nine-win season with a bowl win over Houston. Next, the biggest thing Vanderbilt’s program must do over the next few weeks is hold on to their head coach. Franklin’s name has popped up on the Texas coaching radar, and although he may not get the Horns’ job, he could be a candidate for jobs that see the domino affect. Franklin continues leading this program to new heights, and next year will be an interesting year for Franklin and the Commodores.

Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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