The Commodores didn’t have a winning season, but they improved significantly throughout the season and provided some much-needed competition in the SEC East. Five key moments stood out that notably contributed to Vanderbilt’s success this season. From fresh new starters to crazy plays, the Commodores made it easier for people to see why they belong in the SEC.
RB Ralph Webb’s 74-yard touchdown against the Florida Gators
Ralph Webb’s 74-yard touchdown play against Florida is definitely one of the top moments of Vanderbilt’s 2015 season. He went into the game with a reputation as Vanderbilt’s top offensive weapon and had 693 rushing yards prior to this game. The Gainesville native went down to The Swamp with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by the Florida Gators for recruitment.
This play changed the momentum of the game. The offense lined up just like any other play, but this time, the sophomore broke through the middle and ran all the way down the field for a touchdown. Webb’s 74-yard run gave the Commodores a 7-6 lead over the Gators for the majority of the game.
Freshman QB Kyle Shurmur starts against Kentucky
Kyle Shurmur’s start against Kentucky gave Vanderbilt’s offense a much clearer direction and led to Vanderbilt’s second conference win of the season. The freshman proved he could step up for the Commodores, despite his lack of experience. Following the game, teammates and coaches alike had renewed faith in the quarterback position.
He threw for 166 yards against Kentucky and two touchdowns, but the most significant stat was the fact he threw zero interceptions. Turnovers have been Vanderbilt’s downfall the entire season, and Shurmur proved this game he could manage the ball. Although Texas A&M shut out Vanderbilt the following game, Shurmur led the offense to scoring a season-high 28 points against Tennessee in their final game of the season.
LB Darreon Herring’s QB sack
Darreon Herring’s quarterback sack is one for the books. He got an enormous amount of praise for it from both his coaches and teammates; especially from coach Derek Mason, who took over the defense at the end of Vanderbilt’s 2014 season.
The senior sacked Missouri QB Drew Lock with no mercy, as the Commodores were up 7-3, and Mason loved the play so much he watched it about 15 times. Vanderbilt finished the game with their first conference win of the season over Missouri.
— Vandy_62⚓⬇ (@vandy_62) October 26, 2015
S Oren Burks pick-six against Kentucky
Oren Burks’ pick-six against Kentucky changed the nature of the entire game. The Wildcats were up 10-7 until the safety intercepted Kentucky QB Drew Barker’s pass.
The sophomore came to the ball, picked it off, and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown. To make this play even sweeter, it was Burks’ second interception of the game.
ILB Zach Cunningham starts against Austin Peay
Zach Cunningham changed the entire defense’s dynamic. The sophomore went from being ILB Nigel Bowden’s backup to one of the best defensive players in the SEC.
The linebacker finished the season fifth in the SEC with 103 tackles as a first-year starter and led the SEC with three fumble recoveries. He’s also tied for second in the SEC with four forced fumbles and third in the SEC with 16.5 tackles for loss. Although Cunningham was often overlooked the majority of the season, he was an impact player for the Commodores that contributed to their powerful defense significantly. He will be a valuable asset moving forward.