Deacons must face Vandy's record-setting receiver
Jordan Matthews already has the Southeastern Conference records for most catches and yards receiving in a career, and now the Vanderbilt senior has a chance to do something no receiver has ever managed in this league.
Catch 100 passes in a single season.
For all the receivers that have played in the SEC, not one has ever reached the century mark in receptions. Keith Edwards had 97 catches in 1983 for Vanderbilt. Matthews, who has caught at least five passes in each game this season, will match Edwards' total with his next catch and needs only four to reach 100 on Saturday when Vanderbilt wraps up the regular season against Wake Forest.
"I just can't state strongly enough whatever awards or accomplishments he'll be able to gain this year are well deserved," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "What he has been able to accomplish week in and week out has been impressive."
Matthews has caught 25 passes combined in the past two games for Vanderbilt (7-4), which now has won three straight. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe gets to defend Matthews next.
"They've got really good talent at every position offensively, but (he) is the big-play guy for them and the real difference maker," Grobe said.
Matthews, who returned for his final season, isn't thinking about all his achievements yet. Matthews already has the SEC career marks for catches (246) and yards receiving (3,491). He also is the first receiver in league history with back-to-back seasons with at least 90 catches.
"Me and my teammates have accomplished so much, so when it comes to Saturday we're just going to go out there and try to go 1-0," Matthews said.
Vanderbilt (7-4) already is eligible for a third straight bowl and can finish with eight wins for a second straight season for the first time since 1927 and 1928. The Commodores also are looking to beat Wake Forest a third straight season.
The Demon Deacons (4-7) have lost four straight after losing to Duke 28-21 last week.
"People may say there is nothing on the line, but there is always something on the line," Wake Forest defensive end Redding said.
Here are five things to watch when Wake Forest plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday:
BALL SECURITY: The Commodores are coming off their worst game protecting the ball this season. They turned the ball over four times winning at Tennessee, and an offense that had lost only two fumbles all season lost three in that game alone. But Vanderbilt still ranks second in the SEC at plus-8 in turnover margin because the defense has 19 takeaways in the last five games. Wake Forest is plus-3 in turnover margin but has lost nine fumbles this season.
PRICE TIME: The Wake Forest quarterback is one touchdown shy of tying the Demon Deacons' record for career TDs. Price has 52 TD passes, 11 rushing and one TD reception, and he needs only one TD to tie Riley Skinner who totaled 65 touchdowns in his career.
HALF OF LADLER: The Commodores will be without senior safety Kenny Ladler in the first half after he was ejected for targeting in the last game. He leads the SEC with five forced fumbles and is tied for the league-lead with five interceptions. He is second in the league with 58 solo tackles. Ladler has been at his best over the past six games when he's forced all five of those fumbles with four of his interceptions.
NOVEMBER MATTERS: Vanderbilt has won eight straight in November and can finish off another perfect finish with a win Saturday. Franklin said that's a stat that's pretty dramatic considering the program went 3-32 in November for the decade before he arrived on campus.
REMEMBERING RAJAAN: Matthews still wears a rubber band on his left wrist remembering Rajaan Bennett, a running back out of Georgia who was part of his signing class only to be shot to death in his home in February 2010. Matthews said he never takes that off in memory of a teammate taken away before he even got to Vanderbilt and that he and his fellow seniors want to honor Bennett on Saturday.