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AoG Reader Mailbag: Alabama

“Trash Talk”, life lessons from “Rocky”, and lots of drinkin’

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As always, good questions y’all. I see many of y’all as repeat contributors, so I’m happy that you’re enjoying this feature. VandyImport is likely slumped over a tipped over barstool somewhere in Ireland by now, but he did mail answers to y’all. That’s the dedication we have folks.

Jalen Hurts and the press had a field day with how Vanderbilt “disrespected” the Tide before the game. Did they really? I mean REALLY disrespect the Tide?

VandyTigerPhD: While I feel like we answered a question just like this last week, I wanted to address this one as it was the narrative all Saturday. Both our fans and Bama fans were talking about it, on AoG as well as all through the sports media. I don’t see how saying “Bama, you’re next” after an exciting win to a #18 KSU team was a “call out” or “talking trash” or “running your mouth”. It was something said in excitement, and as Tom pointed out, what should he have said? “Please don’t hurt us, we can’t win” is not the words of a winner or even of a confident player. If it was in a presser and he said it, after the emotions had died down, if he had guaranteed victory, if he said Bama was soft, I’d concede he trash talked. He didn’t. But it’s hardly surprising that we had to spin it into something it wasn’t. Because narratives makes for good stories.

VandyImport: (Drinks Guinness)

Tom Stephenson: Come on, man. You know Saban just published a bunch of fake tweets from Vanderbilt players in the locker room, including one where Nifae Lealao promised to wet Jalen’s het. I would say that’s pretty damn disrespectful, but what he actually said wasn’t.

Was there ever any way that the ‘Dores could’ve beaten this professional team?

VandyTigerPhD: It’s really hard to say even “maybe” to a question like this after getting our heads kicked in. I’d love to be able to hold to our optimistic predictions that if all went well we’d keep it close. What this game really did was serve to show us the gap. Incidentally, it may be time to start admitting that the “SEC IS IN A DOWN YEAR” is probably a true statement. Because I see no team giving them even a run for their money in the conference this year. Maybe UGA, but they’ll likely lose a game or two they shouldn’t and won’t even go to the SECCG.

VandyImport: (Drinks more Guinness)

Tom Stephenson: Did you WATCH that game?

Is there really anything to learn from this game except "We aren't Bama"? Was there one mismatch that stood out? Maybe our Front 7 versus their run blocking?

VandyTigerPhD: Sometimes the lesson is just “forget about it”. We were mismatched pretty much everywhere. Alabama has a game like this every year, and unfortunately, we were in prime position to get knocked off a pedestal. Mason had the right idea in Tuesday’s presser. We don’t really have time to dwell on how badly we got beat, we gotta watch the tape, fix mistakes we made, and get ready for Florida. Shrumur was in first thing the next day to get to work against UF, which tells me a lot about his leadership. He’s not going to let this game dictate his season.

VandyImport: (Drinks Yet More Guinness)

Tom Stephenson: We learned that we would probably finish last in the AFC South, unlike Alabama. Other than that, no.

I've been having a debate with my Vandy friends about this question.

Are we still one of the best teams in the East? I say yes. Don't like our chances of beating Georgia, but I think we're legitimately better than every other team, notwithstanding last Saturday's unmitigated disaster of a performance. My friends say no, we beat two bad teams and got several breaks against KSU, and we'll be lucky to beat Mizzou and WKU and finish 5-7. Who do the fine folks at AoG think is correct?

VandyTigerPhD: I have been telling friends the sick thing about losing to Bama the way we did is that we’re still a good shot to win the East. Every single East team looks vulnerable. We do too, but really less so. You can write off losing to Bama. Struggling the way other teams have? Not as much. We’ve played UF very close the last two years with way worse teams on our end. We’re better and UF is worse. Let’s get that win, and then really start evaluating where we’re going to be for the rest of the year. UGA is the next biggest question mark. If your friends think we’re going to be lucky to beat Mizzou, I think they’re letting last year’s anomaly get to them too much. Mizzou is dreadful - they have literally zero defense. Consider that even after our curb stomping to Bama most SEC pundits have Mizzou as the consensus worst team in the conference.

VandyImport: (drinks Jameson and threatens to whip any man in the house)

Tom Stephenson: So, we have a quarterback (unlike Florida), we have the good sense to not allow the other team to play 11-on-10 (unlike Kentucky), we’re not a complete tire fire (unlike Missourah), we’re not coached by Will Muschamp, we’re not coached by Butch Jones... yeah, I can buy us being one of the better teams in the East.

OK, it was Ala-fricking-bama. But, will our O-line ever be able to block anybody?

VandyTigerPhD: I suppose this is the narrative of the season, and every team has to have one. I’m going to spin a bit here and take issue with the tone of “block anybody”. Our pass blocking is fine, I’ve no real issues with it (yet). The run blocking just doesn’t seem to be on point this year, and it’s obviously playing out in the run game. I’d hate to be that guy, but even Bama keyed off Webb. We have a young line, and they’re actually playing well for their youth, but it’s really not a question now that run blocking will be the issue for the year. If we can have some good offense against UF (and we should) UGA may play enough back for our running lanes to open up.

VandyImport: (drinks Bushmills and threatens to whip EVERY man in the house)

Tom Stephenson: I’m mostly just deferring to VTPhD here, but yeah. I’d agree the pass blocking has been fine, the run blocking could use some work. There’s some shuffling going on with Bailey Granier potentially replacing Jared Southers at right guard and frankly, Granier probably should have been starting from the get-go.

Do you think CDM or the team gave up against Alabama? And if so, when? If you're down 21-0 against the jagernaut, you've got to start thinking realistically about injuries and the next game, rather than achieving an impossible comeback. This could maybe explain the curb-stomping we suffered.

VandyTigerPhD: The issue of “when” is more the issue I’d be curious about than “if”. While yes, worrying about injuries is a thing, I cannot help but to roll my eyes at waving the white flag early, even against seemingly impossible odds. Maybe that’s just my stubbornness. I don’t see a three goal lead as insurmountable, even against very unlikely odds with Alabama. 21-0 was only a quarter in, and hell, even if it was 7 minutes left, I’d say fight. Sometimes the fight is against yourself and your will to keep fighting. There’s actual value in that, and I’d argue what life is all about. Sure you may get even worse, but rolling over also has consequences as well. You gotta fight for everything you get in life, and sometimes that road involves taking on some brutal competition. Anyway, speech over, I don’t have a good answer for “when” either, because I turned off the game after the first and focused on drinking as much Abita as possible and finding old tailgate buddies at LSU.

VandyImport: (in Kilmainham Gaol)

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, the fact that the game got that completely out of hand is a sign that maybe the team just hit the “quit game” button at some point. You can probably pinpoint the moment that Deuce Wallace entered the game in the third quarter as the point where the coaching staff said “fuck it, let’s just go drink Woody Widenhofer-style,” but maybe the team checked out on the game before that.

Slight change of gears. Any optimism from the news that VSG will adopt a resolution against an off-campus stadium? I wonder which Vandy admins are truly gung-ho about the move, and which ones support it only due to the financial considerations.

VandyTigerPhD: Got this question before the announcement came through by Vanderbilt, but wanted to post this question anyway. Because Vanderbilt has announced footbaw will stay at Dudley Field for the time being.

Hope It's not to late but, with the big corruption scandal that just surfaced in college basketball, surely It's going on in college football right? Do you think it happened/happens at VU?

VandyTigerPhD: This is a decidedly Tom question, but like I have ever let me not knowing anything about a topic stop me from giving an opinion anyway. I think that the kind of backroom deals you see from college football is very different from this particular basketball scandal. The kind of things we see in college football is pretty much also done in basketball. Paying players/families, deals with police to look the other way, academic bull, and so forth. Yeah, that’s not good, but it’s not what’s going on here. What’s going on here is a combination of things, but basically big shoe companies owning CBB. They’re funneling players to the big names (Louisville, UNC, UK, Villanova, Kansas, etc.) and so you get those top ten-ish teams constantly getting a full stable of 5*s and it’s because it’s all pre-determined. Keep in mind it’s a lot easier for Addias to gamble on a basketball player that’ll be out in less than a year than even the best FB prospect who may fall on his face in the NFL. There’s a huge gamble on talent going from HS->CFB->NFL. Not the case with HS->CBB->NBA. You know pretty much immediately who’s going to be a great basketball talent coming out of high school. Though I think that one way this could be mitigated is for the NBA to require 3 years out of HS like the NFL does. Won’t happen though.

VandyImport: (sits in dilapidated cell playing The Parting Glass on harmonica)

Tom Stephenson: Kind of an odd place to have to answer this, but here goes.

The real issue with the college hoops stuff, and the reason the FBI is involved, is the agent/financial “advisor”/shoe company angle. This isn’t just old-school stuff where boosters are picking up the bill at restaurants for players and giving out $100 handshakes; this is shoe companies literally picking where players go to college, Bernie Madoff wannabes bribing coaches to steer 18-year-old future millionaires to “invest” with them when they go pro, and all sorts of people other than the athletes involved sticking their hands out for a cut of the action. To be sure, there’s cheating going on in college football, but it’s much, much more of the classic boosters paying ‘croots stuff that, while violating NCAA rules, doesn’t really run afoul of the feds. It’s not a federal crime for a restaurant owner to rip up the bill when athletes dine there.

That said — if you ask anyone who covers college basketball and especially recruiting, it’s not really a secret that this stuff’s been going on. I would be surprised if Vanderbilt’s caught up in this, but, well, never say never.

Question for VandyImport:

You seem to be an old Cal Berkley fan and know Genyk's special Teams. What is your opinion of the return coverages and the punt coverages?

Do you see any similarity in Brian Anger and Sam Loy? Looks like Alabama game saw the low roller punt get put away. Still not letting Loy bomb it out though. Is it the punter or is it the punt coverage holding it back?

VandyImport: (indecipherable mumbling) I’ve suppressed a lot of my memory of those days, but Genyk’s Cal STs always failed to impress. Anger had a lot of flexibility as a punter and I suspect Loy has the same talent, the circumstances just aren’t showing it. I wouldn’t read too much of anything into any aspect of the Alabama game - we were expecting a single reactor ignition and got the firepower of this fully operational battle station so I would be on thin ice to extrapolate anything from that game to any other matchup this year..