This week's Hangover is brought to you by a dozen gin rickeys, because old-time Vandy football deserves an old-time drink.
Notes first, then the complaint.
• Through the cunning use of a DVR and an iPad, you can make Dave Neal and Andre Ward go away and listen to the dulcet tones of the The Voice Joe Fisher, ably assisted by John Gromos '90. Which is a vast vast vast improvement and make no mistake. #blessed
• At least early on, I didn't have much to kick about with the play calling. There were things - screens, delayed gives, rollouts from the shotgun - that at least gave the impression they were trying not to hang Freebeck up like a piñata the way they did last week. Of course, when you're quickly down by three touchdowns, you might as well experiment - and it looks like part of the experiment was to have Stephen Rivers try, try again. And it worked okay for a little bit (the heavy jumbo MANBALL set on the TD was just what I've been hoping for).
• Torren McGaster continues to hit hard, and Nigel Bowden will now be called 52 Pickup because he wears 52 and makes you feel like a pickup ran over you. Really wish McGaster had made that pick-six happen, because that could have changed the whole complexion of the game. But full marks to Jahmel Macintosh for getting his.
• Fisher and Gromos totally called the home-run throw off the 20 yard punt.
• The reason why I always want to defer to the second half is so you don't wind up in a situation like we had, where Georgia can score the easy touchdown at the end of the half and receive the kickoff to start the second half.
• Look: Gurley's probably going to win the Heisman. Or should, anyway. He's as good a Georgia running back as I've ever seen, and I saw Herschel. I think they're slow-rolling him, because he could easily be racking 250 yards a game, and unless we can roll out Chris Marve in disguise, we're not going to impede him in any significant manner. He's gonna get his and there's nothing you can do.
• Never once in my life has any flight attendant or Hardee's employee looked like that. I call shenanigans.
• Even up 24 in the 3rd, Georgia dared not kick off straight to Darrius Sims. The word is out on Mister Six.
• Dallas Rivers. Can I get a witness, Warren Norman: Stone Mountain running backs do work. Ralph Webb left for X-rays at one point and I assume they kept him on the sideline to prevent further damage, but I'm not mad at a Seymour-Rivers rotation. We have depth at RB now.
• I'm not going to kick about the shoddy officiating in this game, because I saw Arizona-Oregon this week and the Pac-12 has retired the belt for Wheel Of Random Calls. Nor am I going to kick about the last touchdown, because if you can't stop their backup running back on a straight carry up the middle, you deserve to be scored on.
So. Let's talk about That Pass.
Supposedly, it went down like this: the call was "60" and Stephen Rivers looked at the wristband and called "90" instead. And even though it sounded strange, nobody caught it, and we ran the dumbest sort of throwback on a play where we should have been able to muscle up and just run it for two yards. And then, when Freebeck came right back onto the field after, it was easy to get the impression that Kevin Stallings has worn off on the football staff, and if you make a mistake you can expect to get yanked and benched. And that would certainly make sense of the quarterback "rotation" this year.
But after the game, it sounds like Derek Mason put that on the offensive coaches for not catching it and getting the time out. I don't know if he also put it on them that we only had 10 men on the field for a third down play, but in any event - look, I grew up never watching the NFL on Sundays. We got home from church and it was time for the Bear Bryant show. And in between stuff like "Byron Braggs made a real good tackle there, I know his momma and daddy and all the folks in Montgomery are real proud of Byron", you could pick up a pattern. When something good happened, the players did it. When something went wrong, the coach blamed himself.
It's tough to shake the sense that Derek Mason doesn't think the buck stops with him. And that's a problem.
This is a brand new coach, with a staff that's almost across the board new to the SEC. These are the days when they earn the benefit of the doubt - that despite what's happening on the field, on the scoreboard, in the standings, they are moving the program in the right direction and things are going to work out in the long run. This is when you build faith equity in the future. And instead, we get botched play calls, slapstick on the sideline with uniforms, lack of urgency in games where you need to be playing hard down big just to build the kind of culture you want around the program. We shouldn't be back to losing to Kentucky, back to counting whether we covered the spread or not, back to going into a game with the aspiration of "let's don't get anyone hurt" instead of finding how we're going to get the win.
Basically, in the last three years, despite getting next to no credit for it, this football team got to a place it hasn't been since before the Great Depression. And halfway through the season, we've reverted back to Same Old Vandy. It would be one thing if you could point to flashes of progress here and there, and there have been a few, but we haven't built on them yet. We found a running game, and we shuffled the offensive line and it sort of did something, but it wasn't sustained. We switch QBs and complete some passes, but then we bench that QB again and go back to what we had before.
Dorrell's long since lost the confidence of a big chunk of the fan base. It's starting to wash onto Mason now. I don't think you fire a guy after one year, and I know it's going to take a while for him to get it together, and I know this is a young team - but right now, Derek Mason needs to focus on doing something to give fans faith in the future of this program. We're not going to any bowl game this year. But there are winnable games left in the second half of the season, and they need to be won. We get Florida and Tennessee at home and neither of them looks like a world-beater. We have Charleston Southern and Old Dominion at home and they were both supposed to be automatic wins even for the folks pegging us for 4-8. Hell, maybe Austyn Carta-Samuels will sabotage Mizzou and then rip open his shirt to reveal a star-V uniform underneath and be hired on the spot by VCDW as our new offensive coordinator. Look, this is my hangover, you hallucinate what YOU like.
In any event, the time to show something is now. NOW. Before the night grows any darker. Because right now we're a hell of a long way from dawn.