The Gerogia Bulldogs defense can make a lot of quarterbacks look bad. As proof I offer last year's SEC Football Championship game where the Dogs knocked the Heisman Trophy out of the hands of the then favorite Tua Tangovailoa. So what happened to Vandrbilt's Riley Neal in his first start as a Commodore is not shocking.
While Neal's stat line was pedestrian at best, it contained one number that is encouraging. That number, zero, as in zero interceptions thrown againt UGA.
Neal's struggles were not all his fault to be sure. There were issues with snaps and the offensive line struggled against the size, speed and athleticism of the Bulldogs defense.
Those things combined forced Neal to throw the short routes and only occasionally was he given time to look deep, but never managed to find a connection.
“He just wasn’t able to set his feet,” said head coach Derek Mason. “There were times when he should’ve climbed the pocket. He was forced to be on the edges, and most of the route combinations were happening in a different spot, so he wound up with different throws or nobody to get the football to.”
Having faced Gerogia's defense should help Neal this week. Nothing the Boilemakers can throw at him- and with all due respect to their team- from an athletic standpoint that will be close to what he saw last week.
The game should actually slow down somewhat and Neal should have more time to read coverages and make plays in the passing game.
Neal is a decent athlete with the ability to extend plays with his legs. That's something he should look to do early in the game when the situation allows. A few well placed runs can help slow down a pass rush.
Neal is a composed player with lots of experience, and he is returning to his home state this week. He will be motivated to have a big game and he has the ability and the athletes around him to take a big step forward this week.
When Neal takes the field later today inside Ross-Ade Stadium, he has the chance to erase the negatives from week one and earn his first win as the Vanderbilt quarterback. If he does the Commodores have a chance to grab a win against the Boilermakers later today.