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.