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Offense Nips Defense at Vandy Spring Game

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Vanderbilt concluded spring practice Saturday morning with a competitive 21-16 win for Team Gold (Offense) over Team Black (Defense) in the annual Black & Gold Game in front of 8,400 on a warm and sunny day in Nashville.

Vanderbilt concluded spring practice Saturday morning with a competitive 21-16 win for Team Gold (Offense) over Team Black (Defense) in the annual Black & Gold Game in front of 8,400 on a warm and sunny day in Nashville.

The game used a modified scoring system that awarded points to the offense for scores and explosive plays and to the defense for stops, sacks and turnovers.

No leader emerged in the quarterback battle between sophomore Patton Robinette and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary. The duo took all of the snaps Saturday with Josh Grady injured and freshmen Wade Freebeck and Shawn Stankavage not arriving until the summer.

Robinette missed on only two of his 11 attempts, finishing with 89 yards. McCrary was 10-of-18 for 94 yards. The competition between Robinette and McCrary is expected to last well into fall camp, which begins in late July or early August.

“We’re just out here trying to make the team better,” Robinette said. “We are competitive guys. We like to compete in everything we do. You got to go get [the job], but it’s not me vs. Johnny.”

The biggest play of the day came in the second quarter on a 60-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Ralph Webb. The Gainesville, Fla., native turned the corner on an outside zone play and then made a beautiful cutback into the open field to finish off the run.

Webb, who finished the day with 114 yards on 14 carries said the change to a more sideline-to-sideline rushing attack under new head coach Derek Mason fits him better than the between-the-tackles style preferred by the previous staff.

“The last offense ran more downhill,” Webb said. “This offense looks to utilize the outside zone and [Webb’s and Brian Kimbrow’s] speed. It’s great for running backs.”

Robinette said that Webb’s performance was no surprise given how the young running back had performed in the previous 14 practices this spring.

“Ralph’s a player,” Robinette said. “We knew that since he got here. You saw today what he’s capable of doing.”

The defense, leading on the scoreboard, for most of the day, produced seven sacks (quarterbacks were not live). Junior outside linebacker Caleb Azubike stressed the simplicity of the new 3-4 defense for their success this spring despite losing six primary starters from the 2013 team.

“The coaches taught us the game before they taught us the plays,” Azubike said. “That opens it up for you because you look at [your teammates] and know what they’re doing. If a guy messes up, I know right when the ball is snapped that he messed up. It makes correcting guys a lot easier.”

Azubike now plays from an upright position after playing with his hand in the ground his first two years as a defensive end in the old 4-3 defense. He has grown to relish the opportunity to make pre-snap reads than he could in the previous defense.

“In the previous defense, you have the MIKE [middle linebacker] making every single call on the field,” Azubike said. “You’re counting on one player. In this defense, everyone except the three guys whose hands are down knows everything about every single call.”

Mason’s history at Stanford with a tight end-heavy offense has transitioned east. Despite junior Kris Kentera missing the game injured, the Commodores still employed two-tight end sets on nearly half of their snaps. Redshirt freshman tight end Nathan Marcus, who had three catches Saturday, loves the role his position has in the offense.

“We’re making plays everywhere and it’s opening up the tight end,” Marcus said.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Gerald Perry led all players with 4 receptions and 29 yards in what was mostly a vanilla passing game plan.
The Commodores open the Mason era at home on Aug. 28 against Temple before beginning SEC play nine days later just down the street at LP Field against Ole Miss.

FINAL STATS:

Passing

Patton Robinette: 9-of-11, 89 yards

Johnny McCrary: 10-of-18, 94 yards

Rushing

Ralph Webb: 14 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD

Brian Kimbrow: 11 carries 55 yards, 1 fumble

McCrary: 7 carries, 9 yards

Jerron Seymour: 2 carries, 4 yards

Robinette: 8 carries, -22 yards, 1 TD

Receiving

Gerald Perry: 4 receptions, 29 yards

Nathan Marcus: 3 receptions, 26 yards

Jordan Cunningham: 2 receptions, 20 yards

Trey Wilkins: 2 receptions, 14 yards

Defense

Sacks: Jay Woods (2), Barron Dixon, Jimmy Stewart, Landon Stokes, Vince Taylor, Ryan White

Forced Fumble: Caleb Azubike

Fumble Recovery: Oren Burks

Pass Breakups: Andrew Williamson

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.