Vanderbilt may have lost in a heart-breaking manner to Ole Miss in their opener, but in defeat Commodores wide receiver Jordan Matthews proved to be the epitome of a competitor who fought like a champion for four quarters.
The senior from Madison, Alabama, put on a receiving clinic with the Commodores breaking in a new quarterback in Austyn Carta-Samuels and finished with 10 receptions for 178 yards and a 55-yard score.
That’s all well and good as many receivers will have stat lines equivalent to what Matthews did in Nashville Thursday night. However, what separates him from other elite wideouts in the nation is his competitive drive and will to be great.
It was never more apparent than with 3:36 left in the game and down four after taking a shot from Cody Prewitt that brought Matthews to his knees and later saw him spill his guts on the 30-yard line. For most players that would end your day, but Matthews only missed one play and two plays later on a fourth and 18 connected for a 42-yard catch. Let that sink in. Minutes earlier he was puking his guts out on the Vanderbilt Stadium turf and made the biggest play of the game up to that point.
Just when it looked like the game was over and all hope was lost it was Matthews who breathed life into the Vanderbilt offense by showing his mettle and the perseverance that has made him go from three-star recruit to potential SEC record holder.
Matthews is the leading returning receiver in the SEC after a 94-catch season with 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns and should finish his career as the conference’s all-time leading receiver. He entered his senior season 811 yards shy of former Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards’ record of 3,093 and 86 shy of former Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett’s 236 career receptions.
It was a disappointing finish for Matthews, who had a pass tip off his hands that would be intercepted to clinch the game for Ole Miss, but that’s looking at the small picture; in the big scope it’s Matthews who has epitomized the Vanderbilt team under James Franklin. The Vanderbilt team is full of former two and three star recruits like Matthews who have turned this into the Golden Age of Vandy football.
Matthews is special, and his fourth down catch should have been a catch that cemented his legacy. If every team in the country had a few players like him they would be in the national title hunt.
Vanderbilt and Matthews lost on Thursday—in what may be one of the best games of the year—but when I saw what Matthews did in the opener you’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger winner.