Notre Dame Football Primer: Vanderbilt Commodores

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Chase Claypool #83 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish grabs a pass in front of Josh Miller #3 of the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Chase Claypool #83 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish grabs a pass in front of Josh Miller #3 of the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

A week after a poor performance against against Ball State, Notre Dame football looks to rebound against a tough SEC team.

Here is everything you need to know for today’s Notre Dame football game vs. Vanderbilt.

Essential Information

Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores (2-0)
Last week: Defeated Nevada, 41-10
Date: September 15 2018
Location: South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame Stadium)
Forecast: 83 degrees, winds ENE at 10 mph, 10% chance of rain
Time/Channel: 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting Line: Notre Dame -13.5

It’s fairly easy to see that last week’s game did not go how Notre Dame had planned.

Even though they came away with a win, a 24-16 final was enough to put questions in the minds of some of even the most dedicated Notre Dame fans.

Now, Notre Dame plays its first regular season SEC opponent since losing a heartbreaker to Georgia last season. This time around: the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Vanderbilt is currently 2-0 with decisive wins over Middle Tennessee (35-7) and last week’s win over Nevada.

Although projected at the bottom of the SEC, there’s plenty of talent on the Vandy roster. There are a few areas that should be of concern heading into today’s game.

When Vanderbilt has the ball….

Vanderbilt’s best weapon on offense is their quarterback, Kyle Shurmur. Son of current New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, Kyle has yet to throw an interception this season in 49 passing attempts. In those 49 attempts, Shurmur has completed 33 for 428 yards and four touchdowns.

The strong armed Shurmur is a pro style quarterback, so don’t expect to see him run unless he absolutely has to.

Shurmur’s top target this season has been Kalija Lipscomb, although it could be a surprise that tight end Jared Pinkney is only 15 yards behind Lipscomb. Lipscomb does have twice the receptions (14 to Pinkney’s 7) and 3 touchdowns.

One of the main things the 2018 Commodores have not yet done is replace all time Vandy great running back Ralph Webb. Vanderbilt is still running somewhat of a running back by committee, with 4 players only separated by 8 carries. Three of those four have over 50 yards on the ground.

Vanderbilt is right in the middle of the pack in terms of rushing, ranked 57th in the nation.

Illinois transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughan has received the most carries  — 20 attempts — with130 yards and two touchdowns to show for it. Jamauri Wakefield, a sophomore who only had 115 yards all last season, already has 99 yards and a touchdown.

When Vanderbilt is on defense….

Vanderbilt brings the No. 22 ranked defense to South Bend. The Commodores have given up just 544 yards in its first two games, and only 8.5 points per game.

No slight on Middle Tennessee or Nevada, but neither of those teams have the athletes the Irish do.

Linebackers Jordan Griffin and Josh Smith share the team lead in tackles with 14, and also have one interception each.

Smith is especially a player to watch. 12 of his 14 tackles are solo tackles, leading the team. Four of those are for loss.

Originally a 4-star recruit, Smith also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oregon and Oklahoma among others. The senior only had 21 tackles all last season, but early this season, he’s shown why he was recruited by elite programs.

The Vanderbilt defense gets a boost this week, as projected starting safety Zaire Jones is back after a two week suspension. It’s unclear how much he’ll play.

Under the radar Vanderbilt player to watch: Linebacker Kenny Hebert

Hebert, a 6-4, 230-pound linebacker is one of the key players to watch on the Commodore defense. Yet somehow; he’s not among the most talked about players on the team.

Hebert is already responsible for three sacks and a fumble recovery. At the very minimum, he’s going to cause some headaches for the Notre Dame offensive line.

Under the radar Notre Dame player to watch: Tight End Nic Weishar

With Cole Kmet out due to what Brian Kelly calls a “high ankle sprain,” this could be Weishar’s chance to really step up into the No. 2 tight end role.

Weishar doesn’t have a single catch yet this season (Kmet only had two) but he had been listed on the depth chart as “or,” meaning he and Kmet would be splitting time. Look for Weishar to step up and appear more in this game than he has all season — even if the stats on paper aren’t there.

Matchup to watch: Vanderbilt wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb vs Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love:

With the strength of the Vanderbilt offense being the passing game, this is a key battle that Notre Dame will need to win if they want to slow down the Vanderbilt offense.

Lipscomb has a slight size advantage over Love (6-1, 200 lbs vs 5-11, 194 lbs) and that could be just enough to swing the matchup in the Commodores’ favor. Both men also have great speed, so this should be a very physical matchup that could go a long way in determining the success of the Vanderbilt offense.


After last week, I find it difficult to figure out which Notre Dame team will come out of the tunnel.

Is it week one Notre Dame that comes our fired up and determined to beat a big time opponent? Or is it week two Notre Dame that comes out flat and coasts through a game they should have won based on talent over execution?

Whichever Notre Dame appears will go a long way in this game.

Notre Dame is good enough to blow Vandy out of the stadium by halftime if they play like they should. However, Vanderbilt is good enough to pull the upset if the Irish sleepwalk even a little bit.

Vanderbilt isn’t afraid of Notre Dame or Notre Dame Stadium. Remember, Commodores head coach Derek Mason said he “isn’t worried” about a trip to South Bend.

Remember last time a Vanderbilt team tried to go after a team like that? They wanted Bama, and they got a 59-0 humiliation.

3 Bold Predictions vs. Vanderbilt. dark. Next

I would think the Irish are extremely aggravated about how everything went last week. Now we’ll get an angry Irish team. They fell asleep last week, but this week, they’re wide awake.

Derek Mason isn’t afraid, but he should be.


Notre Dame 38, Vanderbilt 17