The Hangover, week 6

In which a 40-year-old Commodore supporter with a vertical iron smoker and a sack of hickory chips tries to make sense of Vanderbilt football.

If we have even average containment on the QB, we win that game. I'm convinced of this. More to the point, I'm convinced that John Donovan sees this weakness in practice, mistakes it for Jordan Rodgers being a legit running threat, and calls the game accordingly. Honestly, at this point I'd like to see ACS play not because I think Jordan isn't a good option, but because suppposedly ACS is less able to run and thus the temptation to keep calling designed plays for the QB to leg it out won't be there any more. Seriously, though, "On God" as the kids would say, I will flip right out and start taking hostages if we keep calling designed QB runs on 3rd and 14 in the red zone. I mean, what the hell? We would have covered if we made that and while I didn't have the money down, losing to Florida at home by a single TD would have reflected the character of this game a lot more accurately.

But yeah, containment. We miss Marve and we don't have a lot of LB depth. Garnham and Barnes are doing the best they can out there and Sealand is going to be great, but it's asking a lot right now to have those guys stuff the run and spy the QB all at once. I'm not sanguine about games like Ole Miss for just that reason - Bo Wallace is mobile in ways that Tyler Bray or whatever bag of donuts Auburn puts under center is not.

Special teams needs help, too. We got a field goal blocked (a long-ish one, in fairness), we fell for a swinging-gate 2-pointer (I can't remember seeing anyone actually snap from that nonsense before), we fell for the fake punt hook line and sinker. On the one hand, it's encouraging that Florida felt they had to pull out all the James Bond shit to keep in the game against us, but on the other hand, for all the talk of "we-fense," the special teams were the Achilles' heel last night. And I will be thrilled if I never see Jordan Matthews trot out for a kick return of any kind ever again. We cannot keep risking our top receiver on suicide squad. Period. Paragraph. God forbid he breaks something in a meaningless return against UMass or similar.


So that's the turn. We're halfway home. How does it look? We're 2-4, which is not as good as last year's 3-3. We had kind of a tough row to hoe last year - open with Elon, UConn and home to Ole Miss, then on the road to South Carolina and Alabama before the Georgia near-miss. On the whole, this year looks slightly tougher, with three top-10 teams on the resume plus a loss to a 6-1 Northwestern team that might wind up in Pasadena at this rate. And the back half contains a truly dreadful run of opponents, including an aggregate ONE win in the conference (and that being Ole Miss beating Auburn). We are dead center 4th in the SEC East, and none of the teams behind us have a conference win at all (Mizzou, UT, UK). And on paper, supposedly, the stats reflect a much improved Vandy team from the same time last year.

Last year, the question was "how will we respond to going from 3-0 to 3-3"? This year it's "do we have what it takes to start 2-4 and finish 6-0"? On paper we should be favored in every game the rest of the way. Realistically, I'm worried about two games: at Ole Miss (even though we've owned them - hell, Robbie Caldwell won in Oxford - nothing lasts forever and Hugh Freeze will turn that program around) and at home against Tennessee (because it's a rivalry game, because we have psychological barriers with Tennessee, and because Dooley will be coaching for his !-ing LIFE by then). Everything else, on paper, is a milk run, starting next week with possibly the worst Auburn team of my entire life.

But this is a team that still hasn't put it together. This is not 2008, where we're going to eke out a win by playing completely mistake-free ball and hoping for the best - we have to play through our weaknesses and exploit the other teams' failings. And it has to start Saturday, and it has to start with lowering the boom on Auburn so I can keep this Buck Owens ringtone on my phone.

We've bought in. It's obvious we've bought in, because we expect more and expect better. And we can get it. You can see the improvement, you can see the young guys pulling their weight, it's only a matter of time before things start to click - it just has to happen fast enough to keep the momentum going this year. 6-6 is doable. 8-4 is not unrealistic. 7-5 may be more reasonable. But we have to keep moving forward.

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