Vanderbilt coach Gerry DiNardo's decision to kick off to Navy after winning the coin toss was primarily made to get his defense on the field first. But the move may have contributed to place-kicker Rob Chura having his best day.
By kicking off, Vanderbilt had the wind at its back to start the game. And with a strong wind blowing, Chura kicked a career-best 51-yard field goal that just got through the uprights.
The kick by Chura was the seventh-best in school history and gave the Commodores a 13-0 lead.
DiNardo's move also paid dividends for the defense, which forced Navy to punt after four futile first-quarter drives. The Vanderbilt defense entered the game ranked 17th in the nation in total defensive yardage, allowing 295.1 yards per game (Navy finished the day with 295).
"We elected to kick thinking we would kick the ball through the end zone and make Navy drive 80 yards to score," DiNardo said. "If you put your defense on their 20-yard line, the odds are with you that they will not score. I thought this was worth giving up the possession."
Against a Navy offense that runs a lot of option, Vanderbilt opted to play the outside and force Navy runners inside. That move frustrated Navy quarterback Jason Van Matre, who was never able to turn the corner.
DiNardo agreed with an assessment by Navy coach George Chaump that two long -- and unsuccessful -- Navy drives at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter were crucialto the outcome.
"That drive [stopping Navy at the Vandy 1-yard line as the first half ended] was key to our defense because we came up with a defensive stand and kept Navy out of the end zone going into halftime," DiNardo said. "If they had scored on those two drives, it could have been a much different game."
A familiar face on the Vanderbilt sidelines was linebacker Brad Brown, who played at Navy two years ago. After transferring, Brown sat out a year at Vanderbilt and is now a starter. He finished with seven tackles yesterday, one for a loss.
Perfect 10 for Zuluaga
Navy linebacker Javier Zuluaga had a team-high 10 tackles, the eighth time this season he has had 10 or more tackles. Zuluaga entered the game averaging 13.8 tackles, ninth best in the nation. Zuluaga has 120 tackles.