Struggling Vanderbilt still in SEC East race

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell is wearing all black and jokes that he's in mourning.

Former Lincoln County star Brandon Barden (front) and Vanderbilt control their fate in the SEC East despite a 43-0 drubbing by Georgia.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Former Lincoln County star Brandon Barden (front) and Vanderbilt control their fate in the SEC East despite a 43-0 drubbing by Georgia.

That likely is the best reaction to his Commodores coming off their highest scoring game since 1999 only to be shut out for the first time since 2003.

Yet the Commodores (2-4, 1-2) still control their own fate in the Southeastern Conference despite their 43-0 loss at Georgia. If the Commodores can bounce back Saturday night against No. 19 South Carolina, they would sit atop the Eastern Division.

"It's in our hands," Caldwell said Monday. "There's not a team on our schedule that we can't beat, and there's not a team on our schedule that can't beat us. That's exactly what I've told them, and how it's up to us to step up and take the fight to them."

First, Caldwell must get his offense working again, which won't be easy.

The Commodores managed a measly 140 yards of offense against Georgia. They hadn't been shut out since a 48-0 loss to Tennessee back in 2003, and all that came after a 52-6 win over Eastern Michigan that was Vanderbilt's biggest scoring win since 1999.

They got across midfield just twice against Georgia, the first on the opening drive and reaching the Bulldogs 37. Caldwell said he was told they faced fourth-and-4 instead of fourth-and-2. He decided to punt, only to get a touchback, and he said Monday he would have gone for first down had he known what the yardage actually was.

"I was mistaken. My fault," Caldwell said.

Vanderbilt now ranks 102nd out of 120 FBS teams on offense with 315.2 yards per game. When asked how the defense needs to improve, Caldwell said his offense has to help.

"This is a team thing ... We never gave the defense a spark, a hope; sustain a drive, go down and score some points," Caldwell said.

It might not get much better against South Carolina.

Bailey likely won't play Saturday night because of a high ankle sprain, meaning Caldwell has to choose between a pair of freshmen -- either Logan Stewart or James Kittredge -- to start at center.

"Hopefully, we'll get the ship steered in the right direction, bounce back this week," Caldwell said. "That's our objective. Started on it (Sunday) and had a good day of practice and try to get everybody's wounds healed, licked and ready to go."

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