NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers threw for two touchdowns and redshirt freshman receiver Josh Grady accounted for two more as the Black defeated the Gold 33-0 in Vanderbilt's annual Black and Gold Spring football game on Saturday inside Vanderbilt Stadium.
Rodgers, a seven-game starter in 2011, capped off a strong spring completing 14-of-29 passes for 126 yards and a pair of scoring strikes to tight end Austin Monahan and receiver Jordan Matthews. Grady, one of the Commodores top signees last February, ran for 35 yards and a touchdown on three carries out of the wildcat formation and completed 2-of-2 passes for 59 yards with a 54-yard TD toss to Matthews.
Playing with admittedly unbalanced rosters that featured a squad playing with mainly first-string performers, the Black offense amassed 275 yards on 35 total plays from scrimmage. The unit also converted 6-of-12 attempts on third down plays.
The Gold, meanwhile, struggled to put together drives during much of the day and finished with just 99 yards on 25 plays. Quarterbacks Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette rotated for the squad and combined to complete 9-of-21 passes for 71 yards.
Carta-Samuels, a transfer out of Wyoming, was 6-of-12 for 47 yards during the game, and did pick up a few first downs through the air as well as on the ground, but the California native was picked off on the first possession of the game and suffered a safety during the second half while recovering a botched snap that had rolled on the ground and into the end zone.
"I thought the scrimmage went well, I thought spring ball went well. Most importantly, we stayed healthy," Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said after the game. "We were able to get a bunch of reps, and although we have some depth issues at certain positions, there's positives and negatives in that. The negative effected how we practiced at times, but on the positive, we had guys that got a bunch of reps for us, which is going to help them in a long hand.
"It's going to be interesting how this quarterback thing is going to play out once Austyn has a better feel and he can compete come summer camp. I think Jordan's doing some really nice things and this spring, we've put such a emphasis on the passing game that I think we're a little dependent on running the ball. But in this league, you're not always going to be able to run against people and you're going to have to throw for a higher percentage. So that's going to be an emphasis all summer."
"We've got a lot of work to do between now and summer camp to get ready for South Carolina. We're focused on those guys, but ultimately we're focused on competing with ourselves to be the best that we can," Franklin added.
The Black got on the board in its first possession of the game with a 40-yard Ryan Fowler field goal following a Steven Clarke interception.
The Black finally found the end zone to start the second quarter with a 7-play drive. Beginning at the Gold's 47-yard line, Grady moved the chains with a 13-yard run for a first down and Rodgers found Boyd three plays later for another 13-yard gain. Rodgers capped off the drive when he found Austin Monahan near the left side of the goal line for a 20-yard score.
The Black moved the score to 17-0 with a Rodgers 17-yard pass to Matthews a few moments prior to the end of the half, following a fumble by the Gold running back Hasan Clayton.
Rodgers and company put together perhaps the game's best drive on its first possession during the second half, going 83-yards on 12 plays. Junior fullback Fitz Lassing picked up 13 yards on a couple of carries and caught a Rodgers pass for 17 yards to convert on third down. Rodgers later found redshirt freshman H-back Kris Kentera on a seam route for 25 yards to convert on another third down and put the ball at Gold's 8-yard line. Grady then scored with a run out of the wildcat to the left side to put the Black up 24-0.
Black would add a safety later in the game following a botched snap and a Walker May tackle for loss on Carta-Samuels.
The game ended when Grady found Matthews for a 55-yard touchdown toss with under 30 seconds to go.
Matthews, the team's leading receiver a year ago, finished the game with seven catches for 105 yards and two scores. Lassing caught five passes for 41 yards and ran for 21 on four carries.
The Black defense was led by senior linebacker Archibald Barnes six total tackles while fellow linebackers Chase Garnham and Karl Butler registered three a piece. Senior safety Eric Samuels broke up a pass and racked up three tackles as well for the Black. Senior defensive tackle Colt Nichter was credited with a sack and Jared Morse recovered a fumble.
Despite the decisive score, the Gold team defense had some bright spots. Senior corner Eddie Foster led all players with eight tackles including a tackle for a three-yard loss. He also picked off Rodgers on a pass intended for Chris Boyd. Foster also posted three pass breakups in the loss.
"I thought Eddie Foster came out and did some really nice things, so that was a positive," said Franklin. "We set it up where it was really 1's against 2's for the most part and I thought the No.2 defense did a pretty good job and I think when you look out there, we've got a little more depth on that side of the ball. I thought there was some real positives."
True freshman linebacker Darreon Herring registered five tackles and a sack for the Gold and walk-on linebacker Kellen Williams was credited with three quarterback hurries. Redshirt freshman corner Derek King chipped in four tackles including one for a three-yard loss.
Sophomore receiver Trent Pruitt paced the Gold with five receptions for 45 yards. Robinette picked up 19 yards of the Gold's 28 net rushing yards during the contest.