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.