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the hangover, week twelve

I Started Something I Couldn't Finish.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This week's Hangover is brought to you by several jugs of Mull Tied Holiday Spiced Ale, Tied House Brewing, Mountain View, California.

14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

-Job 1:14-49, KJV

There are two edits.

In the first one, Vanderbilt finishes 3-9.  Worst record since Robbie Caldwell’s ill-starred interim year, and even he eked out a road victory against Ole Miss.  This year’s Commodores lost every single road game, every single SEC game, should have lost half their non-conference games but for a fluke of a miss on a 22-yard field goal.  In this edit, three years of progress were wiped out in thirty minutes, and the glassy-eyed stare of the new coach in the halftime interview against Temple was the signal that Same Old Vandy had returned with a vengeance.  Everything afterward was just paperwork.  Quarterback roulette, redshirts burned to no purpose, our offense plagued with drops on good balls and bewilderingly bad ones, our defense slaughtered on long-developing plays where defenders couldn’t or wouldn’t stay with their man.  A team that as late as the last game of the season still struggled to get out of the huddle in time to get the play off. In this edit, there’s not a single member of the coaching staff you’d have back; best to just clean house altogether, admit that Derek Mason wasn’t ready to be a coach, get the Ingrams to stroke a huge check and go out in search of a known good and proven commodity like yer man over at Memphis or some such.

In the second one, we outgunned Tennessee by ten yards of total offense, were far more effective throwing the ball, actually had a 7-second advantage in time of possession. Patton Robinette had his first two picks of the year, but we actually took two from them as well.  Set aside the punt return touchdown, and in almost every particular we played the Vols to a dead level draw from scrimmage - despite being 17 point underdogs.  In this edit, the team showed an energy and a verve they literally haven’t displayed all year, and we go toe-to-toe for sixty minutes and have the ball on a potential tying drive as time runs out.

I honestly don’t know which edit I want to believe in right now.  Had we been blown up completely - as I fully expected would happen - I would be all in for a clean sweep and start from scratch.  As it is, I don’t know what I believe right now.  Because the Scripture above isn’t by accident - I got on the plane home from Birmingham on January 5 with a swagger in my step and my headphones blaring “WELL YOU CAN TELL EVERYBODY…” until my ears rang.  And then in the span of a day, the wheels came off.  Coach, gone. Coaching staff, gone.  A huge chunk of the recruits, gone. All our starting wide receivers, our starting defensive backs, our place-kicker, our starting QB, gone. All our momentum, gone. What little media buzz and national support we’d mustered, gone. And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Most of the pundits had us at 4-8.  Most of us lashed back, said how awful the SEC East was, and predicted 6-6. As it turns out, the East is just as ghastly as anyone said, but we were the ghastliest. 3-9, a record more suited to the days of Dowhower and Widenhofer and Johnson.  Same Old Vandy was back with a vengeance in 2014, all right - not just in the losses, but how we lost (and how we won, when we could). The burning question now is…what happens next?

I still stand by firing Dorrell. No question, no quarter, no mercy for swine - tonight if possible, tomorrow if necessary, and if the office of the Vice Chancellor doesn’t open until Monday, so be it.  But Alabama fired Mike Shula, and Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham, with years left on their contracts - because they couldn’t stop the bleeding. Derek Mason has had one year to stop the bleeding and managed to gash the wounds open a little wider.  Next year, six wins and a bowl, or he goes.  It may seem unreasonable, it may seem rushed, it may seem unfair, but if we’re truly determined not to go back to the way things were, we can’t afford to bleed out waiting.

Other miscellaneous notes:

* SEC Pravda is as competent as ever.  I watched with the volume off and a DVR delay so I could play Joe and John, and was still appalled at how frequently the on-field down and distance marker conflicted with the one at the bottom of the screen.  This is rookie college AV department stuff, and I thought the SEC Network would represent an upgrade in production values over the old Jefferson Pilot package - but then, as the Eeyore of the SEC, I rather expect us to get the slipshod work.

* I worry that Torren McGaster is going to get a reputation as a flag magnet which will interfere with his ball-hawking. So much potential that kid has. Hits like a freight train and makes things happen.

* Speaking of, my man Darreon Herring brought the wood tonight as he has all year.  Breakout season coming for him in 2015, count on it.

* Us playing Sandstorm and Zombie Nation is tantamount to Kentucky playing Sweet Home Alabama at their stadium.  Knock that shit off, Ops.

* This rivalry still doesn’t have a name or a trophy. I saw shirts labeling it “Hatred in the Hills” and if that’s the best we can do, we should do without.  But I defy you to find a rivalry in college sports with more of a genuine delta between the schools and fanbases.  Maybe a Waterford goblet full of muscadine wine and oil pan drippings. That would work, right?

* Lot of dropped balls tonight, and honestly, when you’ve run four different starting quarterbacks out in 12 games, it’s hard to criticize the players involved for lack of chemistry.  Next year, I don’t want anyone but Patton and Johnny Mac to handle the pigskin.  I’d also like to see a lot less of the ridiculous double-throwback trick passing nonsense, although it’s nice that the staff finally remembered that Joshua Grady is on the roster.  I think this was his last game, although he has a year eligibility left; his Twitter makes it sound like he’s gone and I’m grateful for the kid who led the social media charge for the new age of Vanderbilt football.

* I will probably have more in a few days, once I’ve thought about it some more.  This is just what’s there in the current haze.  But for the first time in years, I’m not ready to start the next season tomorrow, and I think that’s a conceptually complex piece of information that needs unpacking.  Later, though.  Tonight, we drink and dream of better days to come.