Western Kentucky hung with the Commodores for much of this game, but ultimately offensive ineffectiveness in the second half doomed the Tops to their fourth loss of the year.
Vandy started the game with a great 11 play, 75-yard drive that ended in a short touchdown pass from Kyle Shurmur to Trent Sherfield. WKU tied it up with a trick play where receiver Nacarius Fant hit Quinton Baker on a 25 yard touchdown pass two possessions later. Ralph Webb put Vandy back on top, however, on the very next drive. Webb would run the ball in from 8 yards out after a 30 yard completion from Shurmur to Sherfield put them in the red zone.
Then, after trading punts until the last four minutes of the first half, WKU were able to tie it back up. The 8 play, 82-yard drive was arguably their best of the day. It ended with Mike White punching it in from the 3-yard line. On the following possession, with Western Kentucky’s defense playing tight coverage, a 31-yard pass from Shurmur deflected off of Antwon Kincade’s foot fell right into the hands of Trey Ellis who took it in for six points before the end of the half.
Vanderbilt's crazy deflection touchdown reminded us of another famous play from 20 years ago... pic.twitter.com/1U2C87Abth— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 4, 2017
On the first possession of the third quarter, a promising drive by WKU stalled in Vandy territory and ended with a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Nuss. The rest of WKU’s possessions that day would end in punts or turnovers. Vandy pulled away in the third with a 45-yard rushing touchdown by Sherfield. They also added a 39-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Of note for Western Kentucky, Mike White left the game in the final minute to be treated for an undisclosed injury. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but losing him for any amount of time would be a huge blow for this team.
WKU coach Mike Sanford says QB Mike White’s status will be taken “day-by-day.” Coach doesn’t think White has a major injury.— Brad Stephens (@BradBGDN) November 4, 2017
It’s also worth mentioning that several of WKU’s key offensive players didn’t play in this game due to various injuries. Included in that group are receivers Kylen Towner and Cameron Echols-Luper, tight end Deon Yelder, and veteran right tackle Matt Nord. This further shows that WKU cannot afford to lose their starting quarterback, on top of all the other injuries.
It’s almost a wonder that White didn’t appear to sustain a more serious injury. Vanderbilt’s defensive line practically lived in the Tops’ backfield on Saturday. White finished the day 31 of 50 for 324 yards in the loss. He was sacked six times and hurried four times.
To address the run game, Western’s offense has not been great in that area this year and that’s somewhat understandable given the skill sets of the key players on the offense. But the Tops finished this game with -6 rushing yards on 30 attempts. To state the obvious, that can’t continue if they want to progress as a unit.
Defensively, this wasn’t an all together terrible game for WKU. They did force and recover a fumble and did a fairly good job in pass coverage. Vanderbilt’s pass offense just got it done behind some great plays (the tip ball in the video above being the best example) behind their exceptional quarterback.
WKU drops to 5-4 on the year with a trip to 6-3 Marshall coming up next week.