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October 15, 2013

Matthews marching towards history

The last time out, Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews made his way into Commodore history when he passed Boo Mitchell (2,964 yards) as VU's career leader in receiving yards. On Saturday, he's got a chance to make history on a much bigger stage.



The senior from Madison, Ala., who ended the Missouri game with 2,991 yards, needs just 102 more to tie Georgia's Terrence Edwards (1999-2002) for the top spot on the league's all-time chart.

All it would take is a normal Matthews-type game against Georgia on Saturday. He's averaging 118.2 yards per game through six contests.

Once that's done, there are other marks that could also be shattered. One would be Earl Bennett's career receptions mark. The former Commodore, who played from 2005-07, had 236 career catches. Matthews (197) is averaging 7.8 receptions a game, putting him on pace to break that mark in VU's 11th game against Tennessee.

Matthews obviously won't break that mark on Saturday, but he needs just nine catches to tie Kentucky's Craig Yeast (1995-98) for the No. 2 spot.

Matthews broke Dan Stricker's career VU receiving TD record with his 22nd scoring catch last time out against Missouri. Florida's Chris Doering (31 TDs) holds the league mark there, which would be tough for Matthews to match. He's caught five in six games so far.

Matthews has been amazingly consistent despite the constant double-coverages. He's eclipsed 100 yards in ever contest except UMass (76 yards) this season. Should he continue at his current pace and the Commodores make a bowl game, his 1,536 yards would rank him second behind LSU's Josh Reed (1,740 in 2001) on the league' single-season yardage list, though Texas A&M's Mike Evans (737 yards in six games) should also challenge that mark.

Matthews said on Monday that he's not thinking about the record. He did, though, mention some creative coverages he's seen this season.

"I see some crazy coverages during games. At South Carolina, Clowney dropped back into coverage with me. Teams try a lot of different things against me. There have been a lot of collisions from linebackers, double teams from safeties and corners being physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage. It's all a part of the game though, I don't let it affect me," Matthews said.

Player notes:

-- WR Jonathan Krause, VU's No. 2 target, is having a nice year as well. He ranks sixth in the league in receiving yards per game (71.7) and 12th in receptions per contest (4.0).

-- QB Austyn Carta-Samuels ranks fifth in the SEC in passing yards per game (260.2) and fourth in total offense (274.5). Unfortunately, Carta-Samuels is tied for the league lead with Tennessee's Justin Worley with six interceptions. Carta-Samuels has been picked once in four games, twice in the Ole Miss game, and no times in a half of action vs. Austin Peay.

-- DE Caleb Azubike, a second-stringer, ranks 10th in the league in stops for loss (1.0) per contest.

-- P Taylor Hudson ranks just seventh in the SEC in punting average (44.7) but is booting them high with consistency and not allowing returns. The Commodores lead the SEC by nearly a yard and a half with a 41.7 net average.

-- MLB Chase Garnham (leg) remains out and isn't on the depth chart. He's VU's normal starter there.

-- RT Andrew Bridges, another starter, remains out with an undisclosed injury.

-- OLB Karl Butler (undisclosed injury) has missed the last three games, but the way Franklin talked on Monday, he'll almost certainly be back. The converted safety should help VU's LBs in coverage in a big way.

-- LT Wesley Johnson had an awful night against Missouri, but clearly wasn't 100 percent. He's among a group of players whom Franklin hinted should be better this week.

Series history vs. Georgia: Georgia leads the series 53-18-2, and clobbered VU by a 48-3 count in Athens last season. The last time in Nashville, Georgia survived a late blocked punt and held off the Commodores by a 33-28 count.

Quote to note: "I think it helps. Getting them some extra time to get healthy and fresh is important so we will have a few more guys that we haven't in the past [few weeks]." -- VU coach James Franklin, on how the bye week helped the Commodores.

Game breakdown

Scouting the running game: The Commodores fell in a hole so quickly against Missouri that they had to abandon the running game, but RB Jerron Seymour (59 carries, 353 yards, six TDs) continues to show positive things. On Monday, Franklin said he'd emerged as the team's No. 1 option. Georgia is giving up just 3.8 yards per carry, despite having played a brutal schedule so far.

However, Franklin seems to think VU matches up better against UGA this season without a pair of massive defensive tackles in John Jenkins and Cornelius Washington clogging the middle as was the case last season.

Scouting the passing game: The Bulldogs have given up 8.0 yards per pass, which ranks next-to-last in the SEC. Carta-Samuels and Matthews should do some damage through the air against a UGA secondary that starts a pair of freshmen and one junior.

Scouting the run defense: The good news here for Vandy is that, although Georgia QB Aaron Murray is mobile, the Bulldogs won't run him much. The better news would be if All-American RB Todd Gurley doesn't play, and even if he does, he almost certainly won't be 100 percent after suffering a sprained ankle two weekends ago. Franklin singled out the defensive line as a unit that needed to play better, though a lot of the reason that the 'Dores haven't played well against the run (4.5 yards per carry, which ranks 10th in the SEC) is because of poor linebacker play.

Scouting the pass defense: Behind Murray, Georgia ranks second in the league (311.0) in passing yards per game, and nobody's thrown more TD's than UGA's 17. However, three of UGA's best four receivers -- Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett -- are out with injury. VU has had trouble with underneath routes, making TE Arthur Lynch (13-205-2) a tough match-up. The most interesting match-up to watch would be VU's lock-down CB Andre Hal vs. WR Chris Conley (25-378-4), a tremendous athlete who makes a lot of big plays.

Scouting the special teams: K Carey Spear isn't getting a lot of opportunities, but he's made 4-of-5 field goals and remains a threat from over 50. As good as his leg is, UGA's Marshall Morgan, who hit a 56-yarder vs. Tennessee, may be even better. Morgan has hit eight of his 10 tries. Collin Barber (45.1 yards per punt). Neither team has done anything of significance in the return game.




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