Vanderbilt ready for MTSU’s ‘smoke and mirrors’

first_imgVanderbilt has turned “smoke and mirrors” into a compliment about Middle Tennessee State’s offense heading into Saturday’s game.The Blue Raiders (2-2) use a lot of pre-snap shifts and motion to take defenders’ attention off their primary assignment. Vanderbilt players said they have worked all week on blocking out the distractions, which are sure to come in the teams’ first meeting in 10 years.“It’s a challenge because everything is about focus against them,” Vanderbilt safety Oren Burks said. “They do a lot of smoke and mirrors and stuff like that. They will motion guys across to try to get your eyes in the wrong place, so we have to keep our eyes in the right place and just execute.”Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, left, defensive end Caleb Azubike (55) and the Commodores will face MTSU on Saturday.Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, left, defensive end Caleb Azubike (55) and the Commodores will face MTSU on Saturday.On the air: Saturday’s college football gamesJohnny “Red” Floyd: MTSU legend, Vandy lost treasureThe Commodores (1-3) have had relative success against up-tempo offenses like MTSU’s this season, holding Western Kentucky and No. 3 Ole Miss far below their regular output.But MTSU’s extensive use of pre-snap movement is its most distinguishing characteristic.“(Up-tempo offenses) are really similar. They run a lot of plays,” linebacker Darreon Herring said. “(MTSU will) try to get you with motions and try to get your eyes off your real keys. That’s a big thing we’ve been emphasizing this week.“All the motions and stuff, don’t worry about it. Just focus on your key. That’s just the smoke and mirrors to try get us out of our game.”That may be easier said than done. MTSU has averaged 44.5 points and 476.8 yards of total offense this season. That’s padded by a 70-point output against FCS foe Jackson State and 73 points versus FBS newcomer Charlotte. But the Blue Raiders also moved the ball at times in a 37-10 loss at No. 13 Alabama.Stockstills’ father-son days are on MTSU football fieldVanderbilt coach Derek Mason said he’s impressed by MTSU’s offensive personnel, especially quarterback Brent Stockstill, wide receiver Ed’Marques Batties and tight end Terry Pettis.“(Stockstill has an) extremely quick release. He reads defenses well,” Mason said. “… If the pressure comes, we need to make sure we get home. But more than that, we need to confuse him with looks.”So perhaps the team least confused by the opponent’s schemes will be most effective.MTSU has allowed only 1.5 sacks per game, and Stockstill has thrown 12 TD passes and only two interceptions. Vanderbilt has logged six sacks combined in its last two games, and the Commodores picked off Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly twice last week.Vanderbilt downplays first game vs. MTSU in decadeBurks said MTSU keeps defenders on their heels by “getting you out of your mental state” with its motion and deception before the snap.But if game film shows that it’s only “smoke and mirrors,” how are the Blue Raiders still so effective?“They go fast with their tempo and then they count on that one play when you relax and just look away, and then they capitalize on that down the field,” Burks said. “You just have to compartmentalize each play. Is it zone? Is it man? You just have to know what your key is and what your read is off that key.“You can’t lose focus. You have to be locked in against them.”Reach Adam Sparks at 615-259-8010 and on Twitter @AdamSparks. NEXT GAME VANDERBILT (1-3) at MTSU (2-2) When: 6 p.m. Saturday TV/radio: CBS SN/1510-AM, 95.9 FMlast_img

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