Since it is Florida week, I would just like to refer everyone back to my post from last years game about jean shorts and Gator fans. It has become the most requested page on my site, and although it isn’t quite as valid this year (game is in FL), it’s still pretty damn amusing.
This week, Vanderbilt again finds itself on the brink of reaching the “promised land.” However, there are no more “cupcake games” remaining on the Commodore schedule. It will take at least one, and probably two, more solid efforts in order to play a game in December (or January) for the first time since 1982.
The ‘Dores overcame a slow start and an injury to starting QB Mackenzi Adams last Saturday to beat a Miami Redhawks team that is looking to fight for the top spot in the MAC this year. And again, the defense came through big in the second half to seal up the victory.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the next opponent are the always dangerous Florida Gators. Even though they are nursing wounds and several losses, it will take a tremendous effort to win this game. Especially if the offense is still struggling, the defense is going to have to play with all guns blazing to shut down Tebow and the Gator offense. It is no secret that #15 is suffering from a shoulder injury which limited his production in the loss to Georgia. The Commodore defense is going to have to attack him relentlessly to slow him down in this game. The best way to do this is to get several early sacks, and pursue him hard enough to make sure he is thinking about his injuries more than connecting to his receivers. (Note: not advocating intentionally injuring Tebow, but getting his mind off the game a little bit is key to generating the mistakes that could help us win against a team we’ve had several close, agonizing losses to recently).
Following Florida, Vandy will finish the season against Kentucky, Tennessee, and Wake Forest. It will probably require winning two of these four games to get to a bowl. There are a lot of teams in the SEC that will reach the 6 win level this season, and we don’t want to be the ones left out of the mix. It also doesn’t appear that there will be many open slots from other conferences. Parity has brought us mixed blessings.
The mentality of this team is such that I am much more confident in our ability to pull out at least half of our remaining games. Even in 2005 when we started out 4-0 (against some weaker opponents), everyone was saying “we just need two more wins” rather than saying “we can become great this year.” The 2007 team is setting their goals as high as they can. Nine wins. Win out. Is it possible? Yes. Likely? Maybe not. But the confidence being projected is a good sign to me that they will finish the season not in Nashville on Thanksgiving weekend, but somewhere over the December holidays.
What a day! Finally, in a game where both teams came in afraid of putting together a sub par performance, the Commodores pulled it all together in a stifling, if not dominating show. Coming one week after scoring 17 points in the first half before allowing Georgia to come back and seal the victory as time ran out, the ‘Dores again scored 17 early points, but a punishing performance by the defense didn’t allow South Carolina to break the goal line once in the game.
It was assumed in the beginning of the season that, like the past several years, the Vandy squad would be another high-offense team. The defense looked to be improved, but the question still remained: could they keep us in the games? Saturday’s game showed that despite the letdowns offensively, the defense has taken it upon themselves to carry the ‘Dores on their shoulders. Behind solid efforts on both the line and in the secondary, the South Carolina offense was left with little to show for the game. Anytime they worked a drive together, they would be stopped by a fumble or interception. Unlike many past games, the guys in black and gold were at their best on 3rd down, leading to a pitiful conversion percentage for the Gamecocks. Despite trying to use both of his quarterbacks during the game, the Ole Ball Coach was unable to get anything going. Six points off of field goals is not the standard operating procedure for Steve Spurrier!
Although the stars of the day belonged to the Vanderbilt defense, the offense took advantage of some early opportunities and got two big touchdown passes out of new starting quarterback Mackenzi Adams. Although nobody would say his results were perfect, the offense was able to put together solid drives even when they didn’t result in points. This allowed the defense to get some rest and come out ready to keep their smothering pressure on the South Carolina offense.
The second half turned into a field position game, and the Commodores definitely came out ahead, with their drives normally keeping them around midfield, while the Gamecocks often struggled to get past their own 30.
This game has brought a resurgence of hope to the Commodore faithful. Despite the past disappointments, the team is now sitting at 4-3 and will hopefully use this game (which was the first time they had beaten a team ranked this highly since 1937) as a springboard into the rest of the season. With their next game coming against a respectable Miami of Ohio club, the ‘Dores will have to come out and show that they can continue to play with the same intensity they showed this weekend for the rest of the season. Only with top-quality efforts will we be able to pull out victories against some of our historically toughest opponents, such as Florida and Tennessee.
We have gotten off to a good start on the second half of our season, let’s keep the momentum going!
A team wandering in the desert.
Halfway through the 2007 season, the Vanderbilt football team finds itself at 3-3 overall, with a 1-3 conference record. In the past, this would have been considered an adequate showing so far in the season, with pundits claiming there was still a distinct possibility of making it to a bowl game.
However, this year the fans came in with lofty expectations. Some were of their own making, others were brought on by the ambitious predictions of the team. (Remember Earl Bennett saying the goal for the year was a BCS bowl?!) So far, the team has looked competent in the games it was supposed to win, which couldn’t always be said in years past, but rarely left the ground floor against teams of similar or greater talent. I won’t go into what happened in the previous games, but I do know that from now until the end of the season, we play one team from the former category, and five from the latter. Unless the ‘Dores bounce back from their bumpy beginning, it looks to be another season left at home in December and January.
So what needs to be done? First, one of the quarterbacks needs to take the lead on this team. The most likely candidate would be Chris Nickson, but he has struggled with his mental game for the entire season. There has not been a game so far this year that was won because of him, but there have been several where the team worked to overcome his mistakes. The other option would be Mackenzi Adams, who has at least looked adequate in his limited playing time. Second, the team needs to play looser. Like the turnaround experienced by last year’s basketball team, the footballers need to band together and rededicate themselves to this season.
This weekend’s game against South Carolina will be the most likely test of how this team is going to approach the second half of the season. The Gamecocks have also been struggling with several elements of their game, and a strong performance by Vanderbilt could easily lead to a victory in Columbia. Even the dreaded “moral victory” would be a welcome sign for the Commodore faithful, and hopefully provide a morale and dedication boost to the team. Anything less and we will be hitting the uphill part of our schedule without a full head of steam.
Date: A Saturday in the Fall
Coach Bobby Johnson: OK, it’s 3rd down and long. We need something that will really throw off the defense and give us this first down.
Coach Ted Cain: I’ve got a great idea! Everyone will be expecting some sort of pass play, right?
CTC: So why don’t we run a QB draw! Everyone will be back for a pass, and he can run right up the gut for the 1st!
CBJ: Dear Lord, you’re a genius! Why didn’t I come up with something like that?! We’ll do that every 3rd down for the next two years! The defenses will never know what hit them! I knew I kept you around for something…
CTC: Just doing my job, buddy.
In the realm of misbehaving mascots, there is one that rises to the top of the heap year in and year out. That is the Tree, the mascot of Stanford University. The coniferous creation shows up in Facebook photos frequently passed out at frat parties or participating in hijinks of dubious legality.
When it comes to on-the-field roughhousing, I think the top contender may now be the Oregon Duck. This guy seems to have an attitude problem that can only come from spending hours a day in a hot sweaty uniform that would strike fear into any self-preserving minnow. The “mighty” Duck was suspended after their game against Houston for picking a fight with the Cougar mascot. After the Cougar supposedly mocked one of the Duck’s trademark moves, our fine-feathered friend flew in for an attack that in nature would be woefully one-sided. However, in the world of bobbly-head mascots, it may have been more even.
This is at least the second time I can remember the Duck being in hot water. During the NCAA tournament in Nashville several years ago, he got into a fistfight with Utah’s Ute mascot (some sort of bird on stilts I believe) that ended with a mascot head rolling across the basketball court. The pair apparently received some strong words in the locker room, because they came back out and hugged at mid-court after halftime. At least that time had a happy ending!
If this sort of activity keeps up for the next few years, perhaps schools will come to be afraid of Oregon, or at least hide their mascots until the team leaves town.
This weekend at the Wyndham, former Vanderbilt golfer Brandt Snedeker made two jumps forward in his year. First, he won his first tournament on the PGA Tour, thanks to a final-round 63 that brought him back from a 5 shot deficit going into the round. This brought his total earnings on the year to over $2 million. Second, he jumped 17 spots in the FedEx Cup standings, from 26th to 9th. With the four-week playoffs starting tomorrow, he is in a great position to make a move and continue his stellar rookie season.
According to the PGA, any golfer within the top 15 of the standings has a legitimate shot at winning the FedEx cup. Since the points are reset going into this weekend’s tournament, Brandt will only be several thousand points behind Tiger Woods, as opposed to the 20,000 point deficit from the “regular season.”
Best of luck to Brandt, and here’s hoping that he can keep his hot streak running!