Getting all defensive: Hogs want similar showing vs. Commodores

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, October 26, 2018
Arkansas defensive lineman Randy Ramsey (10) runs off the field with the ball after recovering a fumble during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive lineman Randy Ramsey (10) runs off the field with the ball after recovering a fumble during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas defense will try to roll a rare shutout into another big performance at 11 a.m. Saturday against Vanderbilt.

The Razorbacks dodged two errant Tulsa field goals early, dominated during the middle stretch of the game, then held on to the shutout late after a deep pass to their 14-yard line to thwart the Golden Hurricane 23-0.

"What we have to do now is build on that," said Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis, who posted his 15th shutout as an SEC coordinator as the Hogs notched their first in nearly four years.

The Vanderbilt offense provides a much stiffer task, beginning at quarterback, after the Hogs frustrated Tulsa redshirt freshman Seth Boomer.

The Commodores have one of the SEC's most experienced quarterbacks in Kyle Shurmur working behind one of the most veteran lines, which returned all five starters.

Just as important, Vanderbilt is on track to get tailback Ke'Shawn Vaughn back after he sat out with a concussion last week. The 5-10, 222-pound junior is one of the SEC's top weapons with 495 rushing yards, 6 total touchdowns and a robust 6.9 yards per carry.

"We look to get our full gambit of offensive weapons back, which is great," Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason said. "We get the chance to have Ke'Shawn Vaughn back in action and everybody else is healing up and are healthy."

Vaughn ran for 146 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee State, gouged Georgia for 79 yards on 7 carries and added 56 yards on 7 carries for an 8-yard average against Florida.

"He's electric. I mean he's as good as there is in our league," Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said. "When he's on the field, they're an entirely different unit."

Vaughn is averaging 7.4 yards per carry against three solid SEC defenses: South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

"He's a shifty guy, but he can also be powerful when he wants to be," Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin Agim said. "He gets down the field fast."

Shurmur got preseason hype with Vanderbilt officials buying a digital billboard in downtown Atlanta during SEC media days that promoted the quarterback as "Nashville's next big star."

Shurmur has been OK, not great.

The 6-4, 225-pound senior, and son of New York Giants Coach Pat Shurmur, has completed 59.3 percent of his passes (146 of 246) for 1,845 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He ranks eighth in the SEC and 69th nationally in passing efficiency at 134.4.

Without Vaughn in the lineup, Vanderbilt scored a single touchdown in its 14-7 loss at No. 12 Kentucky last week. But the Commodores still harbor the kind of firepower that the Razorbacks expect will be tough to contain.

"It's a really good scheme," Chavis said of Vanderbilt's pro-style attack coordinated by Andy Ludwig. "We're going to see a lot of shifts and motions.

"It's going to be a little more Pro-style than what we've seen. Obviously we've seen a lot of that, but they know what they want to do.

"They're going to give you formations and some tight ends involved, sometimes two or three tight ends in the game at the same time, and they've got an outstanding tailback. To me, and I'm not taking anything away from the quarterback because he is a veteran quarterback who does a really good job, but when you've got a No. 5 [Vaughn] back there who you can hand it to or throw screens to then it makes their offense a lot more difficult to defend."

Agim, who closed out the shutout last week with a fourth-down sack at the Arkansas 18, said he sees a high-powered attack for Vanderbilt.

"Their O-line looks pretty good," he said. "They definitely can score whenever they need to. Their quarterback, he sits in the pocket a lot. He tries to pick you apart, so you've got to try to get him off the mark, and if you do I feel like we can do what we need to do."

The Commodores receiving crew is headed by Kalija Lipscomb, who has 54 receptions for 588 yards and 6 touchdowns. He ranks second in the SEC and 15th nationally with 6.8 catches per game, and fifth in the SEC with 73.5 receiving yards per game. Tight end Jared Pinkney (25-392, 3 TD) is also a top threat.

Arkansas held Tulsa to three-and-out series on its first three possessions of the second half last week, and each of those sequences ended on a sack -- a combo sack from Agim and T.J. Smith, and solos by Armon Watts and Briston Guidry. Watts' sack included a forced fumble recovered by Randy Ramsey, which Arkansas converted into a field goal.

"The biggest thing I take away from this past game is the way we came out and played the third quarter," Chavis said. "That's probably the best quarter of football that we've played. That speaks volumes for our players and their preparation and their willingness to go play.

"You wonder how you're going to play after having a good first half. Usually in most ball games that first five minutes of the second half is crucial. We did a great job of responding to that."

Several Razorbacks turned in stellar performances, with sophomore safety Kamren Curl, freshman cornerback Jarques McClellion and Ramsey being cited by the coaches, as well as Agim, who had two sacks.

Sports on 10/26/2018

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