Nerd Bowl I: A Less Emotional Dissection

Now that I've had some time to come down from the rage-induced paranoia of last night...

Train Island summed up things quite succinctly:

Obviously it wasn't a vast conspiracy, and I obviously question Vandy's ability to get into FG territory in a late game situation - it's not a common occurrence under Larry Smith by any means. It sucks that the game essentially ended on the call, taking the game out of the hands of the players thanks to a bad call. Obviously it wasn't the only factor in the loss, but the reaction here is understandable.

It sucks, it stinks, and it sucks. But that wasn't the only thing that went wrong by any stretch. However, Vandy was showing a heart and talent that they didn't show last year, and rather than get a chance to test that mettle, it was taken away by a shitty call that was flat-out wrong. Did it cost us the game? Not necessarily. Did it cost us the chance to see what this team was made of? Absolutely.

Impressions and take aways after the break

Very impressed with Dan Persa. Clear MVP. Pretty sure VandyDan would love to have him in the fold at VU. Honorary Commodore nickname? Napoleon.

Animated Drive Chart

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Yes, this came from RTT. Deal.

Positives

  • I'll be honest. When Northwestern jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, I wondered if we were in for an embarrassing, long night. Much to my delight, VU fought back and earned their way back into the game, cutting the score to 10-9 at the half. This team showed an ability to overcome a small lead that last season would have been pathetically insurmountable.
  • 21 points. That would have qualified for 4th highest offensive output last season. Take out Western Carolina and Rice and it'd have been 2nd most. There were miscues to be certain. But plenty of room to improve.
  • Jonathan Krause. Speed is good. Especially at WR. The sooner we get him, Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews acclimated to the offense, the better.
  • The Running Backs. We knew this was our strength and they were clearly our bread and butter. 192 yards on the ground. Can't wait for Warren Norman to get closer to 100%. Zac Stacy stood out like he did last season in the opener. Glad to see Kennard Reeves getting in the game as well. Wesley Tate with a huge short-yardage conversion.
  • The Fourth Down Conversion. Yes. The crowd wanted it and Robbie Caldwell delivered. Handoff to Stormin' Norman who threaded himself through a collapsing hole to get the necessary yardage. Woody would have gone for it unsuccessfully. Bobby Johnson would have punted. That's the Robbie Caldwell difference.
  • Robbie Caldwell & the crowd. Not sure how you couldn't feel that despite the loss it was a successful first night in the Robbie Caldwell era. Now, I've heard rumblings that some in the Administration have mixed feelings about Robbie Caldwell's country-boy demeanor, with some higher-ups taken-aback that the face of their Ivy-League calibre university's football program doesn't talk like an elitist Yankee. Well, unless I'm mistaken, no coach since Dan freaking McGugin has generated as much national interest in Vanderbilt football during the OFFSEASON (Commonality: McGugin ruffled Ivy League feathers in putting southern football on the map). In my 30 years in Nashville, I've NEVER heard admitted non-Vanderbilt sports fans calling in to sports talk radio to say that they're interested in attending games this season specifically because they identify more with Robbie Caldwell than any other VU coach because he "talks I do", effectively eliminating the snooty aftertaste Vanderbilt Athletics has traditionally left in the mouths of local non-alumns. I'd hate to point out that season ticket sales post-Robbie Caldwell have been ahead of last season's pace (when we were coming off a bowl victory for the first time in 50+ years, and certainly not after an extremely disappointing and familiar 2-10 season that saw the team lose every single SEC game they played). What the football program needs the most right now are butts in seats. Robbie Caldwell certainly has delivered on that at this point. Every Vandy fan I've talked to is decidedly optimistic despite a situation where such a view should be completely inexplicable. The sole reason? ROBBIE CALDWELL. I sincerely hope he gets a fair shake from the administration. Any hints otherwise and I will be all over it.
  • No major injuries. Please Lord, don't let me have just jinxed us.
Areas of Concern
  • SPECIAL TEAMS. Brutal. Missed PAT (make it and we probably make the other two - and win 24-21). Some awkward decisions/catches on returns. Not a great night for Ted Cain's unit. Maybe the fourth down decision was a bit easier to make given how out of sorts the special teams unit seemed. Warren Norman did make it out there for at least one kickoff return (that I noticed). Can't wait to see him out there returning kicks when he's fully healthy.
  • Offensive Line. I'd say this was kind of neutral. Larry Smith was only sacked once, though he was hurried 3 times (officially). Unfortunately that lone sack nearly decapitated our QB. Glad to see Larry shake it off, though Funk was warming up on the sideline. I think Caldwell assumed he'd been killed on the play, as I did.
  • Execution. Botched 2 point conversions, that missed PAT, making sure to catch the ball before worrying about turning upfield. It's easy to point them out, especially in the first game of the season with so many young players. We're going to have to iron out those wrinkles if we're going to have a reasonable shot at LSU.
  • Stupid penalties. Shooting yourself in the foot time after time is a great way to lose. I saw too many Vanderbilt players slapping their own helmets after fifteen yard flags. When the margin is as razor thin as it is for Vandy, you just can't have it.
So Nerd Bowl I goes to Northwestern. Thanks for coming to town, Wildcat fans. I hope that aside from the mini-controversy that you left Nashville having been afforded the city's renowned friendliness. See you next year. Try not to eat all the pizza by next season. Leave me some.
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