Last week, I admitted to struggling DURING the MTSU game with how I could write the next edition of Ungunking the Sunshine Pump. The end of the game assuaged those fears. The opposite was true during the South Carolina game. In fact, it took until Monday night that I finally came to an important realization. That single insight did not make me happy with the loss or even okay with it, but it settled my nerves a bit going forward. This article will also be a shorter one, not because we have less to be optimistic about necessarily, but we all know how great the defense is and the other things that I have harped on week after week.
Ungunking the Sunshine Pump: Missouri at Vandy
Vanderbilt squandered a lot of goodwill last week when their offense couldn't get anything going against South Carolina. Will they be able to reverse that trend when a tough Missouri team comes to Nashville for Homecoming?
So what could be so important to make you believe in this team after only putting up 10 points to South Carolina? The problem is the answer in this case. Johnny McCrary threw 3 interceptions and fumbled twice (with one recovered by Vanderbilt). He is not the only issue with this offense, but he is the most glaring. We had a few drops, and Ralph Webb also fumbled the ball away once. The line was not perfect, and they allowed some pressure but put in a mostly cromulent performance. JMac had his second game in a row with exactly 177 yards which is just not going to win too many games unless you have a back like Leonard Fournette. I like Ralph and would argue that public opinion of him has fallen too far from last year but to even mention him with Fournette is laughably stupid.
Vanderbilt has an offense that is trying to sputter to a start and has actually gained yardage fairly well (on a historic pace for a Vanderbilt offense, actually). The offense has had a propensity to lose the script when they got into scoring positions though. In the Danger Zone, which most teams call the Red Zone, the Commodores have scored 14 times on 23 attempts for 60.9% conversions. Of those 14 scores, 9 have been TDs. The stat geeks will like to know that we have almost equal passing TDs, rushing TDs, and FGs. Passing TDs and FGs each account for 5 scores while rushing TDs have the other 4. Those numbers put us 126th in FBS in Red Zone scoring percentage. Only Wyoming is worse. Conversely, Missouri's 37th in FBS at converting in the Red Zone with a season mark of 14 scores on 16 trips. Statistically, that percentage may be the only positive thing about their offense, but it does say they have scored only as many times in the Red Zone as we have.
One of you is a conspiracy theorist (or just want me to finally get to my point) and is screaming "What does it all mean?" It means Vanderbilt needs better QB play. Where that better play comes from is irrelevant right now. Does Wade Freebeck step in and take control? Not likely. Will we see another redshirt burned as Kyle Shurmur makes Vanderbilt fans stare into the face the future now? Some "experts" in local media seem to think so. Has Johnny McCrary had his feet held to the fire and been hardened into a diamond? It may only be cubic zirconia, but it would make us all love him anew.
Now, you are probably looking longingly towards wherever the nearest alcohol is stored. As I have said before, drink away but drink with optimism in your heart. Since JMac is still listed as #1 on the depth chart, I will operate under the assumption he starts. The last time he threw 3 INTs was against UGA. His next game was a 0 INT and 2 TD effort where he racked up 368 yards while completing 84.8% of his passes. Do not go look who that game was against, just be happy for the production. This pattern is actually more than just look at his last 3 INT game. His interception totals for the first 6 games are thus: 2, 3, 0, 0, 2, and 3. Vanderbilt fans, we are about to have consecutive 0 INT games from JMac.
With just one less turnover last week, Vanderbilt would likely have found a way to win the game in Columbia. That game had some weird factors considering the flooding in the area, which had already forced the Fighting Steve Spurriers to play elsewhere for a "home" game. Oh, and they had gone from being the Fighting Steve Spurriers to the Fighting Shawn Elliots due to the HBC's abrupt resignation. Barring another Santa Clause performance from McCrary, we will undoubtedly have another chance to win today. Of course, we will be facing a much better defense. Missouri's defense might actually be better than Vanderbilt's. Their offense is assuredly worse than ours. For once, we can point at laugh at the other team's ability to move the ball. It should definitely ungunk your pump.
What are Missouri's offensive rankings when you look at all FBS teams? Turn or click to the last page of whatever statistical database you are using. It is a good bet they will be there. They average 290.4 yards of total offense (125th), 187.0 passing yards (97th), 103.4 rushing yards (121st), and 16.6 points (T-124th) per game. In more fun (for us) statistics, they have 114 first downs (105th), 33.0% on 33/100 conversions on 3rd down (112th), and 28.6% on 2/7 conversions on 4th down (T-118th). If you're starting to shake a little while wondering where Vandy falls in relation, we are better than them in ALL of these categories. Missouri has even played an extra game, so that first down total is more embarrassing. The only offensive categories where Missouri has us beat are on the aforementioned Red Zone scoring percentage and on INTs thrown where they have only tossed 7 to our 11. They are downright Dorrellian. If not for their elite defense, the Missouri Tigers would belong in a petting zoo.
Folks, Vanderbilt can move the ball. Our team just has to hold onto it. Whoever is under center, they will have that message drilled into their head. The opposing offense is hilariously bad in nearly all facets of football. Prepare yourself for an ugly game, but we can win ugly. We took MTSU to #DeepWater. Today, we take an SEC team to #DeepWater. Rise and Shine because the pump is officially ungunked.