Brought to you by Cherry Bomb whiskey, made by Eastside Distilling of Portland Oregon with real Oregon cherries, which only charges $5 for a six-spirit tasting just like the other three places on Distillery Row. Ooof.
I'll be honest, I didn't expect a win. But I didn't think it was impossible either. We did beat Cocky back to back in 2007-08, which I think permanently altered Steve Superior's thinking about Vandy. After all, when he was clobbering us in the 90s at Florida, we didn't take our own football seriously, so why should he? But his words at the end of the game to Coach Mason were accurate: "Y'all played a hell of a game. You're gonna win some this year."
And right there, the Ol' Ball Coach summed up what I want from this squad at this point. This is a young, young team (to keep beating what is now officially if not a dead horse then one circling the glue factory while being told about the rabbits) but you can see flashes of potential on all sides. Last week it was CJ Duncan doing his seagull impression ("MINE") and Oren Burks being a homing missile; this week it was Jay Woods ripping into the line and Wade Freebeck showing what he can do with time and targets and Darrius Sims doing his best Devin Hester impression. He might not get a ball kicked in the air to him the rest of the year, and there's got to be some way to sneak him into the backfield on an end-around and exploit that speed. Then again, Trent Sherfield staked his claim to that spot last night, too.
And then there's Ralph Webb. I'm just going to say the names: Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. He's got speed, he's got strength, he can hit the hole and push the pile and stampede the cliches...he is the real deal and the total package at running back, and he may turn out to be to 2014 what Zac Stacy was two years ago. When in doubt, feed Webb and wait for another Webb Gem.
I'm going to specifically mention Steven Scheu, though, as the veteran best keeping the chip this week - I tweeted during the game that given time and targets, Freebeck is the real deal, and Scheu proved that the tight end in the flat is the young QB's best friend. More than once, he was there down the field unlooked-for and Freebeck put it right on his numbers for a big gain. Tight end play has been neglected at Vanderbilt for too long - if we can get mileage from that spot, we're going to be even better in future.
And that brings us back around to QB. I think Patton's still the guy, but Freebeck looked better last night than Rivers has yet. You can see why people were outraged at the prospect of losing a year of him for the sake of a quarter against UMass - but you can tell he's going to be a serious talent, and now that we've burnt the redshirt, as well hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
This week's team would have beaten Temple and UMass handily. This week's team would have covered against Ole Miss. The growth will be slow and painful sometimes, and we may get worse before we get better (Mississippi State looks like a lot tougher out than it did over the summer) but this is a team moving in the right direction. And that's all I can ask at this point. It makes me think that 2014 may not be so bad, that 2015 could be pretty good, and 2016...
Well, we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.