Vanderbilt dropped its bowl game, but star running back Ralph Webb says he’s coming back in 2017.
The junior running back announced he will be returning to school for his senior year after the Commodores’ 41-17 loss to NC State in Monday’s Independence Bowl.
“I gave it a lot of thought, talked with my family, talked with my coaches,” Webb said. “I will be coming back to play next year.”
The return of Webb is a huge boost for the Commodores. The running back, who has carried the offensive load for most of the season, did so again in the bowl game with a team-high 111 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
He’s already the all-time leading rusher in school history after just three seasons.
Webb rushed for 1,283 yards this season and represents just one in a growing list of top returning running backs to the SEC for 2017, a list that already includes the likes of Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams III, LSU’s Derrius Guice, Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway and the Georgia pair of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Webb’s announcement supplied a positive ending to a disappointing evening for Vanderbilt.
Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur struggled (19 of 46, 41.3 percent, 158 yards, 3.4 yards per attempt), loading entire weight of the offense on Webb.
“The quarterback never really got settled,” coach Derek Mason said. “It didn’t seem like Shurmur felt comfortable in the pocket.”
Shurmur ended up throwing three interceptions, the last one returned for a touchdown as time expired. The quarterback acknowledged after the game that he took some risks that didn’t pan out.
“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and careless, and I crossed that a few times,” Shurmur said.
On defense, the Commodores, noted for their defensive prowess during SEC play, tackled poorly and too often failed to contain the Wolfpack.
“Any time your edges get soft, you get explosive plays, and that’s what I saw,” Mason said.
NC State’s Jaylen Samuels did most of the damage, catching three touchdown passes and finishing with six receptions for 104 yards.
“We knew what we was, we understood that,” Mason said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job defending him.”
Although the loss means that Vanderbilt ends the year with a losing record at 6-7, the Commodores will be happy that their leading rusher is coming back for another year in black and gold. Webb is eagerly awaiting the next set of challenges.
“We’re not playing to just get six wins and barely go to a bowl game,” Webb said. “We’re coming out here to compete, coming out here to win. As a leader on this offense and with Kyle right beside me, we’re going to make sure we do that.”
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