(3) Derek Mason Hires Karl Dorrell as his Offensive Coordinator, 2014
Not counting the time he made himself the defensive coordinator, Derek Mason is, effectively, 1-for-5 in hiring coordinators. But the circumstances that led to Gerry Gdowski’s elevation to offensive coordinator prior to the 2019 season perhaps deserve some slack, and while defensive coordinator hires Dave Kotulski (2014) and Jason Tarver (2018-19) didn’t really work... well, Mason’s fingerprints were all over the defense, anyway.
And then there was Karl Dorrell.
Mason’s first offensive coordinator came to Vanderbilt having been an FBS offensive coordinator for five years in the 1990s. Since leaving Washington after the 1999 season, he’d spent most of his time as an NFL wide receivers coach, with a five-year tenure as UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07. So from the jump, Mason had hired as his offensive coordinator a man who was basically a career NFL position coach.
I understand that the timetable — Mason was hiring an offensive coordinator after getting the job in January 2014 — was a little weird. But still, you couldn’t find someone who had been an offensive coordinator at any level in the previous fourteen years?
Anyway, Dorrell’s offense looked like something straight out of the 1990s, and not in a good way. The best thing I can say about Karl Dorrell’s deep-ball heavy offense is that it’s the kind of offense that can look good when your quarterback is someone like Koy Detmer or Marques Tuiasosopo — two quarterbacks he’d had at his disposal the last time he was a college offensive coordinator. When your quarterback room is a revolving door of Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers (guh), Wade Freebeck, and Johnny McCrary, well... let’s just say there’s a reason why college offenses shifted away from a reliance on throwing it deep.
But this did not stop Karl, of course. Vanderbilt’s quarterback room in 2014 combined to complete barely 50 percent of their passes with an average of 6 yards per attempt. The run game did unearth a hidden gem in redshirt freshman Ralph Webb, but there was very little to write home about in the 2014 offense. The end result was an offense that averaged a paltry 17.2 points per game — and an even worse 12.8 ppg when you limit it to SEC opponents.
There was, in short, a reason why college football programs had largely evolved away from “pro-style” offenses by 2014, and Karl Dorrell gave everyone a reminder as to why.
(6) Tim Corbin Goes with David Price in the 10th Inning, 2007
I completely get that two National titles wipes the pain away (and in writing that, now I have that damned Peaches song stuck in my head). Still, there was a time when Vanderbilt had the best team in baseball—ranked #1 for the entire season, no less—and arguably the best left handed college pitcher ever on the mound… and got our hearts ripped out and stomped into oblivion by a freshman pinch hitter batting .188 on the season who had struck out in his previous 8 at bats.
*screams into pillow*
Yes, I’m talking about the 10th inning of the final game of the 2007 Nashville Regional, where Michigan’s David took down Vanderbilt’s Goliath. And yes, I am still viscerally angry about it.
Before we get back to that moment, let’s take a minute to remember just how packed with star power our 2007 roster was.
The Ace: #14 Jr. LHP David Price (11-1; 2.63 ERA; a school record 194 Ks)
Here are just some of the awards Price racked up in ‘07:
Dick Howser Trophy Winner
Golden Spikes Award Winner
Collegiate Baseball’s Co-National Player of the Year
CSTV’s College Player of the Year
First-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, National
Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Rivals.com
Brooks Wallace Award Winner
Roger Clemens Award Finalist
SEC Male Athlete of the Year
SEC Pitcher of the Year
First Team All-SEC
No. 1 Overall Draft Pick (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
He has lived up to the billing of being a first overall pick, as well. For his career thus far, the big lefty is 150-80 with a 3.31 ERA, is a 5 time All-Star, won the Cy Young in 2012 (and came in 2nd in 2010 and 2015), signed the biggest contract for a starting pitcher ever (at the time) with the Boston Red Sox in 2016 (and was integral in their ‘18 World Series Victory), will suit up for the LA Dodgers’ superteam if/when baseball finally returns this year, and has a 39.7 career WAR (10th most among active pitchers). If he pitches for a few more years, the man has a legitimate shot at being enshrined in Cooperstown. He’s pretty good, I’m saying. Oh, and he paid the lion’s share for our amazing new pitching facilities, continues to mentor our young pitchers, and can be seen in the stands at Omaha pretty regularly nowadays. If not for the existence of Tony Kemp, he would be my favorite person.
Saturday Starter: #12 Fr. LHP Mike Minor (9-1; 3.09 ERA)
The Freshman All-American would go on to be chosen #7 overall in the ‘09 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He’s still dealing in the pros, as he was an All-Star for the Rangers just last season.
Closer: #18 Sr. RHP Casey Weathers (12-2; 2.37 ERA, 7 Saves, and a 100mph heater)
Weathers would be chosen #8 overall by the Colorado Rockies. He would shake hands with Tommy John the following year, and never quite be the same. But in ‘07? He was as lights out as they come.
The Power Bat: #24 So. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.386/.463/.684 with 18 HR, 21 2B, and 68 RBI)
The All-American would be chosen #2 overall in the ‘08 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He would play 9 years in the pros, and make the 2013 All-Star Game. He led the NL in HR in ‘13, as well. We have had a crap-ton of phenomenal hitters in the years that have followed, but Alvarez was special. You always expected him to come through, as he was just so much better than everyone else. He was like having a left handed Manny Ramirez in your lineup, sans the crazy. I still say the Rays should have taken him first overall instead of high school SS Tim Beckham, and their superior developmental system would have turned him into a more complete hitter as a pro. Sadly, the Price and Pedro bromance would end in ‘07.
The Other Power Bat: #3 Jr. OF Dominic de la Osa (.378/.452/.727 with 20 HR, 23 2B, and 62 RBI)
“Of the Bear” had an absolute MONSTER of a season in ‘07, was named All-SEC, but somehow lasted until the 10th round when Detroit snagged him. Dom turned the Tigers down, returned for his senior year, and had a good, but not great ‘08, going .297/.410/.506 with 10 home runs. He was taken in the 11th round in the ‘08 draft by the Minnesota Twins and played only two years in their minor league system. Still, in ‘07, he was basically a 2nd Pedro Alvarez in the lineup.
The Utili-God: #22 So. SS Ryan “Flash” Flaherty (.381/.438/.531 with 4 HR, 23 2B, and 57 RBI)
Flash was yet another first rounder on the ‘07 squad, as he was taken 41st overall in the supplemental first round in ‘08 by the Chicago Cubs. He has played 8 seasons in the bigs with three teams, largely as in the super utility/one-man-bench role.
Of course, that whole Regional seemed to be cursed for the #1 Overall National Seed Commodores. Price pitched the opener against #4 seed Austin “Burns When I” Peay, and was dominant. He went the full 9 innings, K’d 17 Austin Peay-ans… but then allowed a solo shot in the top of the 9th to send it into extras. Corbs would go to closer Casey “100mph” Weathers in the 10th. That game would go 11 innings, and Vanderbilt would just squeak by with a 2-1 win when… well, I’ll let the vucommodores.com game recap explain the way we lucked out there:
Then, in the bottom half, de la Osa singled to bring up third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez hit a shot that bounced off first base right to first baseman Jake Lane. Lane stepped on first and threw to second to seemingly end the threat. But Flaherty, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 31 games, hit another single and outfielder Matt Meingasner drew a walk from David Vicini (2-2), prompting a pitching change. After the runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball, Robin hit a weak ground ball to the right side. Wilshire got the spikes of his cleat caught while trying to make the play, and the ball bounced off his glove behind him. Gilbert was unable to retire Robin and Flaherty bounded home to give Vanderbilt the victory.
Then in game two, despite having Freshman All-American LHP Mike Minor on the mound, Michigan walked us off with a 2 out single in the 9th to win 4-3.
Unexpectedly in the loser’s bracket, Vanderbilt would have to win out to advance to the Super Regionals. We were all confident they would do so. They proceeded to look like the team we knew they were in the next two games—an 11-5 walloping of Austin Peay led by Ryan Flaherty’s 5-5 with a 3 run bomb day at the plate, and a 10-7 victory over Michigan powered by a 7 run 2nd inning—sweeping the Sunday double-header and forcing a winner-take-all final game against Michigan on Monday.
Quick note: Though the consensus amongst baseball writers at the time was that Vanderbilt was a team without holes, that really wasn’t the case. Rather, we were the team with the most stars in college baseball, but our pitching rotation back then wasn’t even remotely close to as deep as it has been in recent years. Our game three starter was Cody Crowell, who didn’t make it past the 4th inning. Nick Christiani—who probably should have started game three, but perhaps that was some strategery?—had a down day in the 10-7 win over Michigan, giving up 5 runs in 4+ IP. And, well… that’s pretty much all the arms we had.
I mean, we all remember Price giving up the homer in the 10th, but did you remember we had to tab middle reliever Tyler Rhoden to start that game (who had only gotten one other start all year)? Rhoden fought, but looked rough out there, and we had to go to THE PREVIOUS DAY’S STARTER, Cody Crowell, in the 5th, with the Dores down 3-1. Heck, even Mike Minor was called to the mound, and he only had one day of rest. Price got the call in the 9th, and ended the Michigan threat to send it to extras.
*Note: I don’t even remember seeing Tyler Rhoden. Pretty sure it was just Edward Norton the whole time.
And here’s the thing: Price only had two days of rest. He, just like Crowell and Minor before him, was pitching on fumes. He came in during the highest of high pressure situations—game tied in the 9th, needing three outs to keep the season alive—and gave literally all he had. You can’t ask him to sit down, wrap his arm, let the adrenaline leave his body, and then send him out again in the 10th. You just can’t.
I don’t care if we needed to go to little used relievers like Caleb Cotham, Stephen Shao, or Jason Cunningham, you just can’t ask a guy who threw 9 innings three days ago to warm up, pitch a tense inning, sit down, and get back up again.
Again, this post is not in any way ragging on David Price. That warrior gave everything he had for us in ‘07.
Then, in the 10th, that damned freshman came to the plate. Alan Oaks. The one who was hitting .188. The one who only had one home run on the year (also a pinch hit HR to win a game, oddly enough). Against one of the best pitchers to ever play college ball, having one of the best seasons a college pitcher has ever had. And he connected on one. And we collectively died a little inside.
Corbs then went to So. RHP Brett Jacobson. He should have made that call at the beginning of the 10th. Jacobson was no slouch, and he was rested. Jacobson was 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA in ‘07. He would be picked in the 4th round of the ‘08 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers. He pitched in all three games against Michigan in the regional, allowing only 1 run in 6 & 1⁄3 IP.
*screams into pillow again*
Of course, you have probably blocked (read: drank) the bottom of the 10th out of your memory, but Pedro Alvarez—college ball’s best power hitter that year, who would go on to be chosen #2 overall in ‘08—got a hold of one, but Michigan’s Derek VanBuskirk (yes, that is a real human name given to a real human) leapt and robbed him of a double at the wall. One foot longer, and we’re tied again. A few inches in any direction, and he’s standing on 2nd, likely driven in by the Flaherty single that would follow. But it was caught. And the Goliath that was Vanderbilt’s 2007 baseball team went down.
“I just thought we were going to win again,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. “I did not visualize sitting in front of you talking about a loss tonight. I still think it’s a bad dream. I just didn’t see this coming. I just thought we were going to win again and that’s just the power of the kids.”
Michigan would be the only team to have a winning record against Vanderbilt all year.
It was Price’s lone loss of the 2007 season.
It still hurts.
Which moment advances?
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