NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Though the defense dominated much of the action in the 2014 version of Vanderbilt's Black and Gold game, it was the offense that capitalized off of a big running play and a fourth quarter scoring drive to claim a 21-16 victory for the Gold inside Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday.
The defense, designated as the "Black" team on the day, held leads as large as 9-1 and 15-10 during the scrimmage due to the event's unique scoring system, but the offense, decked out in gold jerseys, had an answer each time with touchdowns and explosive plays.
"Just trying to recap it quickly, I saw some really good things on both sides," Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said following the game. "I think our ability to run the ball is probably going to be as good as its ever been. I feel good about the stable of running backs. You saw today, we have three running backs that can run behind their pads. I thought the offensive line did a great job of re-establishing the line of scrimmage and we did a great job of capturing the edge."
Redshirt freshman running back Ralph Webb got the scoring going for the Gold in the second quarter with a run down the visitor's sideline for over 40 yards, and then cutting back to across the field to get past the pursuing defense to sprint another 20 yards for the day's first touchdown. Since the play went over 15 yards, the touchdown accounted for 7 points for the offense and the PAT added another point as the Gold pulled even with the Black at 9-9.
The 60-yard score was a part of an impressive day for Webb as the Florida native went on to gain 114 yards on 14 carries. Junior back Brian Kimbrow was also impressive during the day, rushing for 55 yards on 10 carries.
The Gold put together a more methodical drive towards the end of the second quarter, as sophomore Patton Robinette connected on a 17-yard pass to senior tight end Dillon van der Wal, and Kimbrow put together several strong runs. The drive changed suddenly however just inside the Black's red zone as Kimbrow looked to be crossing into the end zone for a touchdown, but nickel back Oren Burks and linebacker Caleb Azubike combined to string Kimbrow around the 2-yard line, and Burks landed on the ball to recover a fumble for the defense. The turnover resulted in 6 points awarded to the Black, to give the unit back the lead at 15-10.
"I thought our secondary did a good job in coverage other than those penalties," said Mason. "Front seven wise, I think we need to improve, I saw too many big runs and not enough knock back up front. Inside backers played well, but outside backers and the front, just a little soft for my liking so we'll have to make sure to continue to use our hat and hands and be stronger."
Redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary led the Commodores down the field a few series later, resulting in a 39-yard field goal by walk-on kicker David Holtgrave, and push the score to 15-14 in the third quarter.
The Black added another point following a Vince Taylor sack to push it to 16-14, but Robinette and the offense put together a 65-yard scoring drive with a mix of both the pass and run. The Black was also whistled for a pair of penalties to help the Gold's cause, but it was Robinette running off a fake from 1-yard out to give the offense its second touchdown of the day and push the Gold ahead 21-16.
Robinette utilized several underneath routes and sideline passes to manage the offense and finish 9-of-11 during the day for 89 yards. McCrary attempted a few more passes while playing mostly with the projected second team line, and finished 10-of-18 for 94 yards.
The quarterbacks favorite targets on the day seemed to be redshirt freshman receiver Gerald Perry and tight end Nathan Marcus. Perry finished with 29 yards on four receptions while Marcus was targeted several times and was credited with 26 yards on three receptions. The biggest pass-play of the day was a 21-yard pass from McCrary to redshirt freshman C.J. Duncan during the first half.
The Black was led by several standouts including outside linebacker Caleb Azubike, inside linebackers Darreon Herring and Harding Harper and defensive end Jay Woods. Azubike, Herring and Harper each had five tackles a piece, while Woods posted a pair of sacks. Fellow defensive end Barron Dixon, outside linebackers Jimmy Stewart and Landon Stokes and redshirt freshman safety Ryan White all posted sacks as well during the day.
Check with VandySports.com throughout the weekend for more coverage and analysis of the spring game as well as the spring period in general.