TUSCALOOSA − Vanderbilt football lost 55-3 to Alabama football in a road blowout in freshman quarterback AJ Swann's first SEC start Saturday. Not much went right or came easy at Bryant-Denny Stadium as the game was over quickly.
SEC schools don't grade on a curve, and playing the second-ranked Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) was big test for Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1).
Here's how we graded the Commodores:
Swann and his offense struggled to stay ahead of the sticks and convert on third downs, resulting in 11 punts, few points and rare plays longer than 10 yards. The offensive line allowed plenty of sacks, and the lone points came in the first quarter.
Vanderbilt couldn't handle Alabama’s receivers and paid for it to the tune of 628 yards and seven touchdowns. The weak pass rush on quarterback Bryce Young, who always seemed to find receivers in holes, only exacerbated the pass defense's rough day.
It’s not a surprise considering the size gap between Alabama’s offensive line and Vanderbilt’s defensive line, but when Alabama chose to run between the tackles, it worked.
VANDERBILT FOOTBALL: Vanderbilt football dominated by Alabama in SEC opener
Special teams: D+
Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry returned a punt past the Vanderbilt 40, but Vanderbilt forced a fumble and recovered it. That nearly cancels out, but not quite.
Then came a second-half gaffe by Jayden McGowan, who called a fair catch on a kickoff but muffed the catch. Vanderbilt’s struggling offense had to start at the 1-yard line when it needed to put together something to feel good about moving forward.
Vanderbilt didn’t have any game-deciding mistakes on the sideline. It gambled for a fourth down in its own territory in the second quarter down 14-0 and failed on a Swann rush. The defense could never solve Alabama's offense for long.
Vanderbilt didn’t and couldn’t play complementary football in any way against Alabama, and the scoreboard showed it. Swann and the offense found a bit of success throwing to the outside, especially to Will Sheppard.
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Jerell Rushin is a recruiting reporter for the Tuscaloosa News and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Vanderbilt football grades vs. Alabama: Rough days for all three units