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AoG Mailbag: Florida Aftermath

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I see you’re all as exhausted as we are...

Vanderbilt vs Florida Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

Only three questions this week. I see you’re all as just drained of energy as... well, as the lack of activity on the boards would imply anyway. I have not heard from VandyImport... let us hope he’s enjoying Ireland the way one should - on the brink of alcohol poisoning. We include him in the by-line of this week’s QA as a memorial. May your hangovers be better than a Vanderbilt football game.

After the first three games, we were apologizing for wanting CDM fired after the past seasons and praising what he had accomplished after those games. Now, after the output of the last two games, will we be taking a picthforker stance again?

Tom Stephenson: Huh. Define “we” here.

If you’re including me in this, no, losing to Alabama and Florida (however ugly the loss to Alabama was, and however bad we happened to look in the Swamp) is never cause for taking a pitchforker stance with regards to a Vanderbilt coach. Otherwise, we would have a new coach on an annual basis, and that is no way to run a football program.

Now, after Georgia, we face Ole Miss, University-2, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Missouri, and THEM, with three of those games at home. If we finish worse than 6-6? Yes, pitchforking is acceptable. For now, though, I’m back to where I was for most of Mason’s first three years. Wait and see.

VandyTigerPhD: Well, it’s kind of hard for me to answer this question as I’ve literally been called a member of the “sunshine pumpers” by the “pitchforkers”. I guess that’s neither here nor there, but I always figured myself as more in the “wait and see” camp. Heck, I’m arguing with LSU fans right now on ATVS that LSU cannot afford to fire O right now because of the horrendous message that’s going to send (sound familiar?). In either case, I’m not sure I’m best to analyze what the water mark is for “pitchforkers” to “return”, but here goes.

I’m going to agree with Tom for the most part though and say that if we lose to UGA, I don’t see a good cause to go “pitchforker”. That’s 3-3 and still better than some “realistic” predictions we had going into the season. 1-3 in the Amen corner is acceptable as far as I am concerned. Yes, we’d have liked to have done better, but it’s not nearly grounds for “fire him”.

The way we end this season is where we start really analyzing things. I still believe every single game after UGA is winnable. Every one. So we can end the season 9-3 if we really surged. Let’s be honest though, it’s much more likely to be closer to 6-6. In the past I’ve argued that I don’t like putting a hard and fast number on firing. However, looking at the back end of this schedule, if we fail to get 6 wins, I can totally understand people wanting him fired. It’s year four, and all these teams are vulnerable. Let’s get it done.

Who does the Alabama and [Florida] games fall on? CDM? Ludwig? The offensive line and/or line coach? The team as a whole? Karl Dorrell? Butch Jones?

Tom Stephenson: I don’t really think we should be blaming anyone for the fact that Alabama showed up. That was a stupid, stupid game that we should just forget about.

As far as Florida goes, well... I can’t really blame anyone associated with the offense because 24 points ought to be enough to beat this Florida team. That was more than Tennessee scored on them, after all, and they needed a Hail Mary to beat Tennessee. If you have to assign blame, there is just absolutely no reason that our defense should be giving up 38 to Florida. There was some stupidity involved there, like that tipped ball that ended up in a Florida receiver’s hands, and the fact that we knocked their starting QB out of the game only to find out that their backup QB was actually better than the starter. But that loss was 100 percent on the defense.

VandyTigerPhD: I said this in the UF game thread, but isn’t it the most Vanderbilt thing to happen that we knock out a starting QB just for the backup to come out playing with a chip on his shoulder? Any other team in the country, the backup is serviceable but the team limps for the rest of the game. Not with Vanderbilt games though!

Gotta agree with Tom though, this loss was 100% on defense. I’d blame the whole unit, really, because they were just soft and not ready to play. In the end, that comes down to coaching I suppose. So while there’s shared blame, it ultimately falls on our DC... which is HCDM. The good news is our offense looked good! Now if only we can get back to both working at the same time.

When Mason took over the defense a few years ago the first thing I noticed, beyond the fact that players actually knew where they should be on the field, was that the kids wrapped up and flew to the ball. They were fundamentally sound (which is getting more and more rare) and did not give up much after contact. I know Bama is a beast and Florida has athletes, but have their fundamentals changed, or are the players just not as strong/experienced etc as in the past.

And basically the same question for the blocking of the line. Ludwig, came in and had the guys trapping, countering, blocking down, etc. We could get muscled, but made plays in every game. So, what do you see as having changed for this unit as well?

I think we all knew from the beginning of the season that this four game stretch of K-State, Bama, Florida, Georgia was going to be harsh. I am glad that we all became believers after K-State and I guess that it is a good thing that we have lifted expectations. However, win or lose against UGA, I just want them to compete and execute the little things again. Vandy can win out after this weekend, but they have to keep their head up.

Tom Stephenson: Objection, your honor, counsel is testifying.

(swigs bourbon)

VandyTigerPhD: Yeah, I don’t know what to say either. We’re upper classmen and if anything all these things should be better. Hell, they were better just a few weeks ago. Even Mason has made comments about this in his Tuesday presser. We’re not even tackling soundly anymore. Same goes for the opposite side of the ball really. Shurmur has only been sacked three times this year, but our run blocking is just not connecting. In both cases it comes down to fundamentals more than the other team being better athletes. Mason has correctly said that’s on him and he’s gotta get on the guys to execute better.